Dear SAT,

Yes, Scholastic Aptitude Test, I’m talking to you. It’s time someone spoke the truth and put you in your place. As the parent of a high school senior, I’m giving you a piece of my mind. I was taught to never use the word “hate”. We could say dislike, detest or loathe but hate wasn’t OK. For me to let the word “hate” slip between my lips, I really must feel strongly and passionately about something. I only use it on rare occasions and only if I truly mean it. That time is now.

I hate you.

I hate what you stand for. I hate how much pressure you put on our teenagers. I hate how kids believe their future rides on a three-hour test. I hate that you have so much power over one’s senior year in high school. I hate that you make parents crazy with fret awaiting their kids test scores. I hate that when our kids try their best, we are forced to determine if their best was “good enough” to get them to where they want to go. I hate how people assume a good SAT score sets you up for a successful life. I hate that words like analogy, algebraic concepts, reading comprehension, graphs and metrics cause so much stress (and unneeded acne!) in the lives of teenagers. Please, give them a break.

I hate that you are a timed test which only adds more pressure. I hate that you give boring reading passages and have test-takers write about absurd subjects that most teenagers could care less about. I hate that amazing young people who don’t do well often feel ashamed by their score and believe that they are not very smart. I hate that you think one’s ability to determine if a sentence is grammatically correct somehow makes them smarter than someone else. Get with the times, we have spell-check on our laptops. Whether or not my child knows where to place a comma, or a semi-colon has no weight on his intelligence. Please, give me a break.

You are like a bad April’s Fools joke that never ends. Not allowing teenagers to go to the bathroom until they have a scheduled break? What if they have Venti Starbucks drinks before they come into the test? Imagine trying to hold your pee for 45 minutes and answer critical reading questions about The Great Flood of 1862. What about the kid who scores 1560 (only 40 points less than perfect) and then gets DENIED at their dream school? I couldn’t get a 1560 if I had my laptop open and sat next to a math professor. You tease teens into thinking they have a great score only to be slapped in the face with a “Thanks but no thanks” from a college they were prepared to shell out $50,000 a year to attend. You are an evil prankster. SAT could stand for Sorry (you’re not) All That.

And why the trick questions? Aren’t we being tricked enough paying to take this ridiculous test? Do we really hate our teenagers so much that we punish them by making them wake up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning to go sit in an uncomfortable chair for three hours answering questions about real life things such as, “If Mary had a lemonade stand, solve for X to decide how much lemonade she sold if she used this much lemonade mix (3×3 +2t9).” Shouldn’t the correct answer be, “Why is Mary selling lemonade if she’s brilliant enough to solve that equation?” Maybe SAT means Stupid Anti-aptitude Test.

Let’s get real. You are only a snapshot of who my student is. You’re missing the bigger picture. You don’t see the hard worker he is or the self-discipline I see sitting at the dining room table grinding away on school nights. You don’t see the rock-solid determination that drives his choices. You don’t see how he treats other people or the leader he is at school. You don’t see how he has served his community or how he would be an asset to any university. You don’t see how he engages with the world around him or how he problem solves real life issues. You don’t see his academic capabilities or the possibilities to make a difference in the world. You are not an accurate representation of who he is.

Honestly, I don’t think you measure intelligence at all . . . just how fast you can work and how good you are at taking a test. You don’t test brain power; you test endurance. You don’t test aptitude; you test memorization and replication. You test useless content that will never be used in college, or even life. You don’t measure grit, resourcefulness, work-ethic, character or will-power—bigger factors in determining one’s success in life than a random three-hour test. 

If I’m representing all students, I think you are a societal issue. Students of privilege have more advantages and resources available than those from impoverished areas. You are not a “leveler” of playing fields, quite the opposite. You aren’t fair across the board. Our world is a beautiful melting pot and you do nothing to represent the beauty of diversity and the richness of difference that exists in our human family.

Professionally speaking, you cause worry, panic, distress, frustration, disappointment and depression. You cause feelings of self-doubt, worthlessness, incompetency, and fear. You are a therapist’s worst nightmare. SAT: Sick And Twisted.

Let me qualify: this has nothing to do with my son or his test score; he did fine. It has everything to do with the process and the havoc you wreck on the lives of teenagers. Our high schoolers don’t need any more stress in their lives. You add unnecessary anxiety to overwhelmed and tired young people. Between the ridiculous amount of work required for AP classes to the time-consuming extra-curricular activities, our teens are stressed to the max. And more importantly, they are exhausted. But they never feel like they can rest because you are always looming. You are like a dark cloud that hovers over their high school experience and frankly, I think you suck. SAT stands for Satan Approved Torture.

Let’s stop making teenagers jump through your unreasonable hoop trying to play the admissions game. Instead of offering multiple choice tests to determine students’ potential in college, how about allowing them to write essays about who they are, where they come from, what they are passionate about and what they can offer to make the world a better place? How about taking more merit in interviews, their GPA and what their teachers say about them as students and their classroom work ethic? How about considering the bigger picture of them as people and students than just some goofy score that says nothing about one’s potential, intellectual capacity, or future success in college? How about freeing up the time used to cram and study for your test and allowing students to volunteer at senior centers to hear about history first-hand, or write for their school newspapers to work on their writing skills, or get jobs to put their math and communication skills to practice? How about allowing them to put down their SAT prep books and pick up books to read for pleasure? How about reminding our teenagers that your silly test means nothing in the big path of their life; they have control of the direction and the projection on how far they will travel based on how hard they work and how bad they want to succeed.

I’m done with you. You are irrelevant to me. My kid is worth more than a number. I’m telling him to unfriend you and block all contact because you are a bully. You make young people believe they are less than they are. You humiliate and intimidate high schoolers. You create fear and anxiety in them. You cause them to question themselves and lose hope. You trick, tease and stigmatize kids who are just trying to do their best. Shame on you.

SAT, your day has passed. You are no longer needed or wanted. You are old and antiquated. You need to go away. Simply put, you are a Stupid Ass Test.

Sick And Tired,

A loving parent

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Kelly Richardson

I am a Licensed Pyschotherapist who specializes in working with teenagers and their famiilies. I wrote a Syndicated Teenage Advice Column for 17 years called Teen Talk and now I have switched to blogging as Thera-Mom, combining my home and my job. I am the mom of three busy and very different teenagers, two in high school and one in college.  

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