Many students prepare for the SAT by drilling themselves on esoteric, arcane and recondite words -- like esoteric, arcane and recondite. Linguist Geoff Nunberg doesn't discourage these efforts, but he does have a word of caution: memorizing a definition is hardly the same as learning a new word.
Journalist and staff writer for The New Yorker Nicholas Lemann is the author of the new book "The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy" (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux). It's a social history of how reformers in the mid 1940s set upon universal testing criteria (the Educational Testing Service, purveyors of the SAT) as a way of creating a new democratic elite, drawn from every section and every background of America. And it's about how that 50 year old system has failed.
Guest commentator Maureen Corrigan reviews a new book critical of the college entrance exam, administered by the company ETS. ETS also developed the subject-specific Advanced Placement tests, which Corrigan graded for three years.