Recently I heard on the news that some kids taking their SAT had an unusual question for the essay portion of the test.  The prompt went something like this:

“Reality-television programs, which feature real people engaged in real activities rather than professional actors performing scripted scenes, are increasingly popular. These shows depict ordinary people competing in everything from singing and dancing to losing weight, or just living their everyday lives. Most people believe that the reality these shows portray is authentic, but they are being misled. How authentic can these shows be when producers design challenges for the participants and then editors alter filmed scenes?”


“Do people benefit from forms of entertainment that show so-called reality, or are such forms of entertainment harmful?”

Many students and parents were upset about this question, fearful it would lower their kids chances of getting a good score on the SAT.  These students obviously were not ones who watched reality TV.  Most likely because their parents did not allow it, or simply because they were not interested.  They had better things to do like study (Duh).

If they would have only realized that you did not have to be a reality show watcher to answer the question.  I side with the College Board Chief Laurence Bunin who stated that everything they needed to know to write their essay was contained in the question itself.

The objective of an essay question is to elicit passion for one side or another on the given topic.  Considering the buzz about the question itself it surely pit people on both sides of the fence.  The essay question does not measure your knowledge of the topic only your ability to pick aside and argue to support your position.  It grades your writing skills, not whether you were right or wrong on choosing your position.

I think the SAT question does indicate that times are changing.  Not only do teenagers have to be prepared to enter our society when they leave for college. They need to have some exposure to what is out there and what they will encounter on their own.  The question is how much exposure?  I battle this question all the time with my more liberal friends and I do not have the answer.  I guess only time will tell.  Although, I will use this example for my daughter on how to answer SAT essay questions in the future.