“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you take the SAT at the age of 36.”
Mark Twain said that, I think. Please forgive any minor transcription errors.
May 7 is your big test day. I humbly offer a series of loosely connected, slightly cryptic quotes to impress upon you the momentousness of the occasion:
First, to quote you to you: “[S]tudents are impressionable. Their mindsets are shaped by the way the adults in their lives act…” That’s how you opened the final paragraph of a great entry in The Digest of Gifted Research last November.
Second, since television is apparently my primary reference point for all things, to quote “The Simpsons”:
Third, to quote Ecclesiastes (New International Version): “Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.”
Fourth, to quote Yogi Berra: “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
The new SAT is nothing new. It’s another opportunity for a particular student with a particular set of life experiences to encounter a particular set of questions that, to some indeterminate, inevitable degree of fallibility, compares his/her intangible something to everyone else’s intangible something.
We’re always looking for clear-cut answers to unanswerable quandaries. But clear-cut answers are so rarely forthcoming. The big questions (Why am I here?, How do I live the best life possible?, etc.) necessarily have to boil down to smaller questions (What should my college major be?, What should I be when I grow up?, etc.). And even then, trying to coerce your SAT score into telling you what you should do with your life is a tall task.
All of this can be wrapped up with another quote, one that sounds like a tricky combo-Math/English SAT question but is really just a beautiful invitation to calm down and remember to maintain the perspective I wrote about earlier:
“The intellect is to truth as an inscribed polygon is to the inscribing circle. The more angles the inscribed polygon has, the more similar it is to the circle. However, even if the number of angles is to increase ad infinitum, the polygon never becomes equal to the circle.” (Nicholas of Cusa, On Learned Ignorance, 1440)
In the end, even if we ace the SAT, there’s no surefire way to arrive at the right answers to the big questions. Some of the questions are supposed to be unanswerable. We take the test, we let our scores help gauge what what we do with our futures, yet we remember all the while that not even the SAT can quantify the unquantifiable. (Well, you do all that; I plan on eating pancakes and playing tennis on May 7.)
Editor’s note: TIP Researcher Matt Makel is taking the new SAT on May 7th to see how his test scores compare with those he earned while a mere lad in high school many moons ago. Ivan Ross is TIP’s Media Coordinator and a former tutor to students taking the SAT. This post is Ivan’s response to a request by Matt for advice on taking the SAT. We don’t know about you, but we are pretty sure that it may take Matt until May 7th to figure out the meaning of this post….