What is the meaning of life?

Recently, I did my first ever SAT exam. For those ones who are unfamiliar with what SAT is, it is the American college entrance exam. The three-letter word SAT used to be an acronym for Scholastic Aptitude Test, but since roughly 1998 the testing agency CollegeBoard abolished it. Each year, 1.6 million college-bound students (freshman, sophomore, junior or senior alike) take the SAT. Alongside with ACT, almost every American and American International colleges requires one of the two.


The SAT experience is difficult to be judged upon, especially as a test taker instead of a marker or a reviewer. For the three hours and forty five minutes test, any sane person would believe that three month of preparation is considered excessive; in fact, it is not. I began preparing absolutely non-seriously in May after I was informed that going to America requires taking the SAT exam. Indeed, I have heard of the exam several times in the past about people discussing it. Having heard that the reading portion is the most difficult out of the three, I became interested and downloaded a piece of “Official Practice Exam” from the CollegeBoard website. (Indeed, this is a real exam, from January 2007, otherwise it would not have conversions and difficulty rankings.)  My score was terrible, like indeed terrible. I was on the path of defying the rumor that reading is the determinant but I have been defied myself after trying the official practice reading.


The essential parts of the exam are the math and the “critical” reading.The math section consists of 44 multiple choice questions and 10 grid-in response questions. It is easy because of the natural setting that American secondary mathematical education is inept. However, the real killer is the critical reading. Speaking of irony, which is a common literary device that ETS will ask you on a SAT reading question, the SAT reading is nowhere critical and that if one receives a full score will cease to be critical after a plethora of practice exams.  Nevertheless, having been trained for SAT reading is one of the most memorable and useful skill that I ever learned in my life. You only live once, Sólo se viva una vez, and taking SAT exam seems to be a legitimate way of spending your life “meaningfully”.


Many people argue that SAT has no use for college preparation and therefore has no practical value, I do not agree with them. By completing almost 100 practice/mock/impersonated/released SAT exams in critical reading, I learned that Nadia Comăneci participated in the Montreal olympics representing Romania and received an unprecedented score of 10.0 which is displayed as 1.0.

Nadia Comaneci, 1976 Olympics, The Independent, 1976

Indeed, this is not the only example that SAT distinguished itself from other “reading” tests. ETS l0ves art history, humanities and minority rights article. Odds are, there must be one SAT reading based on the above three appearing on every single test. After believing that I overused the word indeed, indeed, SAT taught me many about art history. While the method that SAT uses is plain and simple, they give you a question and you answer it, the learning element behind it is substantial. I remember reading a SAT reading about Haitian revolution, which is a topic that rarely anyone would know. Fortunately, Haitian revolution is one of my main interest fields, hence I understood it without a problem.


With my score 14 days due from today, there is not much to talk about the SAT. My advice is to not take any standardized test if it is possible, but if you do need one, take one that interests you most, not according to arbitrary selection or “difficulty selection”. SAT and ACT both has drawbacks and advantages, choose wisely and choose the best.


Do something meaningful in your life, don’t waste it, if you waste it, someone will employ it. (Quote adapted and revised from Charles-Henri Baker, Haitian Politician)

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