Snooki

Teen bookworms panic over SAT's question on reality television

March 22, 2011 at 4:30 PM ET

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Snooki is to the SATs as huh? is to wha??

What do Snooki, The Situation and Kim Kardashian have to do with the SAT college entrance exam? Considering none of these faux-celebs attended an institution of higher learning (and likely never even took the test), you’d think absolutely nothing.  

But this year's test-takers learned differently. The unlikely topic of reality TV appeared on the standardized test’s essay portion, giving students with a little "Jersey Shore" know-how a bit of an edge, and freaking out plenty of others.

As the New York Times recently reported, the web site College Confidential was deluged with comments from frustrated, non-TV-watching test takers.

Said one student:  “This is one of those moments when I wished I actually watched TV. I ended up talking about Jacob Riis and how any form of media cannot capture reality objectively. I kinda want to cry right now.” Another student told the New York Daily News: “A lot of what we did in SAT prep classes was to use historical events or literature in our essays. I guess the kids who watch crap TV did well.”

The exact essay prompt: “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?

Reps from the SAT defended the question, saying it was “engaging and thought-provoking” and that it was ultimately about getting students to “take one side of an issue and develop an argument to support that position.” Even Tiger Mom Amy Chua weighed in on the debate and supported SAT test makers. (Of course, we know her kids are too busy practicing violin for hours to watch reality TV.)

Sure, reality TV is a fixture of current pop culture. But does that make it fair fodder for a test that helps determine where you go to college? What do you think?

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