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Over the weekend, I took the SAT for the second and final time. For those of you who haven't taken it yet (or have just forgotten how it works), the SAT is broken down into ten sections in total: three of mathematics, three of critical reading, three of writing, and one variable, experimental section. One of the writing sections is also the 25-minute essay, meaning 60% (potentially even 70%!) of the SAT revolves around your skill with words...but all in prose.

I began to wonder why a test so heavily steeped in the English language didn't include a single instance of poetry, but rather paragraphs and paragraphs of prose. Surely, understanding poetry is all about critical reading?

Then I got to wondering about what it actually requires to understand poetry. Obviously, critical reading skills are important, but that can't be all. I scored fairly high on my critical reading section and I still have difficulty fully understanding lots of poems. So I began to investigate: The official SAT information video describes the SAT as a test where "all students from all backgrounds have an equal chance to succeed." Does that mean that not all students can read poetry equally as well?

Well, frankly, not really. Poetry is something that, I believe, needs to be taught. There are certainly instances of genius poets who were self-taught, such as Dorothy Parker or Elizabeth Bartlett, but these are very rare, like a four-leaf clover, or a Red Sox fan who isn't currently foaming at the mouth. In most cases, people have to be taught how to read/write poetry. There are entire guides to understanding poetry, even textbooks!

Poetry needs to understood, examined, scrutinized. It's nearly impossible to glean everything a poem has to offer within one reading, which is why I believe the SAT does not test a student's ability to read poetry: as a test designed to provide equal opportunity to all students, not everyone has the ability or skill to read what a poem has to offer.


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