SAT's Reality TV Question Sparks Student Outcry

Studying to take the SAT? You might want to brush up on your Kim Kardashian and Jersey Shore.

Some students who took the exam Saturday were distraught afterward thanks to a question about -- of all things -- reality TV. The problem was, some of the students had little exposure to the genre -- or even the medium itself -- and felt it wasn't a fair question to ask.

"This is one of those moments when I wish I actually watched TV," one test-taker wrote on the Web site College Confidential, as picked up by the New York Times.

Wrote another: “I ended up talking about [19th-century social reformer] Jacob Riis and how any form of media cannot capture reality objectively. I kinda want to cry right now.”

The question included the statements: "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." Those were followed up by the question: "How authentic can these shows be when producers design challenges for the participants and then editors alter filmed scenes?"

Angela Garcia, executive director of the SAT program, said the question was not unfair and had gone through pre-testing with students and teachers: "The primary goal of the essay prompt is to give students an opportunity to demonstrate their writing skills ... It’s really about pop culture as a reference point that they would certainly have an opinion on."

Peter Kauffmann, vp communications for the College Board, added that "everything you need to write the essay is in the essay prompt."

Indeed, not every SAT-taker was fretting over the question.

"I talked about American Idol (how it can push people to strive towards better singing skills) and The Biggest Loser (how it influences people to become healthier)," wrote one. "Wasn’t that hard from what I thought."