Karl Hagen's blog

4 Nov 2013

SAT Essay Word Clouds

Submitted by Karl Hagen
For all my students who have recently taken the SAT (or are planning to do so soon), I prepared a little visualization of what sorts of topics appear frequently on SAT essays. I took all the essay topics made public from March 2005 (the first SAT with a writing section) through October 2013, deleted the boilerplate instructions and attribution lines, and ran the remaining text through Wordle to create a word cloud. Here's the result:
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17 Feb 2013

Stupid Memes

Submitted by Karl Hagen
[UPDATED 2/19/13: added a few more comparisons, and by popular request, appended the list of non-a produce from WordNet.]

On Facebook today, I saw several people referring to a meme "Name a fruit or vegetable that does not contain the letter 'a'." with the comment "not that easy" above it. My immediate thought was that this was silly. Lots of non-a words occurred to me (cherry, lime, plum, beet, celery, turnip, etc., etc.)

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31 Dec 2012

Expect better

Submitted by Karl Hagen
Many students (and some test-prep companies) like to trash the SAT for its shoddy, ambiguous questions. For such students, I suppose, complaining is a way of coping with their own stress and imperfect performance. It's easier to cope with missing a question if you can convince yourself that it was unfair. In point of fact, though, truly problematic questions on the SAT are extremely rare. Every once and a while, it does happen.
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8 Jan 2012

Can the SAT be gamed? (Part II)

Submitted by Karl Hagen
In the first part of this series, I suggested that many strategies taught by test-preparation companies cannot legitimately be called gaming the SAT. Which is not to say that there aren't strategies out there that do amount to gaming the test. But many test-prep people, including myself, take the line that actual improvement comes from building fundamental skills and takes real work. (The test-prep guy writing in the Times debate I mentioned last time takes this attitude.)
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7 Jan 2012

On Old English Translation

Submitted by Karl Hagen
About 15 years ago, when I was still in grad school, I went through a phase where I did a certain amount of translation into Old English--perhaps a masochistic exercise, but it appealed to me as a technical challenge and as a way of improving my knowledge of the language. It would also come in handy when, years later, I got a job translating stuff for the Zemeckis version of Beowulf.
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