DOWN WITH TIME-LIMITS!...

DOWN WITH TIME-LIMITS! I find Mark Franek's argument in favor of abolishing the SAT's time limits fairly compelling. As he notes, more than 40,000 of the test's two million takers are getting dispensations for extra time due to learning disabilities, some real, some imagined. Back in high school, I knew a fair number of testers who exaggerated actual disabilities or invented fake ones in order to get a leg up on the all-important SAT. But it was obvious, even there, that the students from richer families were getting these extensions in greater numbers, if only because they found out about the feature through expensive test prep services. Moreover documenting a learning disability and appealing for the dispensation required time, money, effort, and official compliance, all resources available in greater quantities to families resting comfortably at the top of the income bracket.

Of course, just because the allocation is skewed doesn't mean that many students don't actually need the extra time. So why not simply give it to all students, letting them finish at their own pace? If the answer is that colleges, for some reason, value intelligence and competency under pressure, the principle's already been invalidated by the 40,000 students getting 150 or 200 percent more time than their competitors. Indeed, it's never been clear to me why the time limit is useful at all: I'm blisteringly quick at filling in Scantron bubbles, but that's not been a skill life has often required. A methodical mind, and the willingness to remain at an unpleasant task until it's competently completed seem far more applicable to both college and the real world, and testing for them would be fairer to boot.

--Ezra Klein

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