Education: Cure for Chaos

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When students have finished them (for a $12 fee), the papers are mailed back to the Educational Testing Service in Princeton for grading. The board itself neither passes nor fails students, never tells them what they get; each college determines for itself what grades and qualifications will get a candidate in.

In 50 years the type of examinations has changed more than once. The first factual tests in narrow fields gave way to broad "comprehensives" filled with essay questions. Later, the board pioneered with "scholastic aptitude" tests. By World War II it begar, giving "achievement tests" in 10 different subjects. Of these, in addition o the scholastic aptitude test, most colleges require three. Instead of writing essays, the student must now answer short questions, designed to test his ability to think as well as remember. Unlike the older essays, they are questions no teacher can anticipate, and no student can ever cram for.* Some 80,000 youngsters will be puzzling their heads over them in this year's college boards.

* Sample from a recent select-the-best phrase question: "In trying to renew old recollections, we cannot unfold the whole web of our existence; we must 1) winnow the wheat from the chaff, 2) pick out the single threads, 3) scrap the flotsam and jetsam, 4) isolate the relevant factors, 5) distinguish between the warp and the woof." Students who ticked off No. 2 got it right.

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