2003-2004: When MOE wasted my money and time

Since everyone seems to have collective amnesia about it and the Internet has been thoroughly scrubbed of records, I would like to note down my feelings for posterity.

2003: The first year that Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) becomes mandatory for local university admission. Thousands of Junior College students, including myself, are forced to take two additional tests (English and Mathematics).

2004: Immediately after 2003’s batch of students take the test (including me), the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is no longer required for local university admission. [MOE: *troll*] [Me: *flips table*]

Thanks to MOE’s about-face, I paid out-of-pocket for TWO unnecessary tests (as a Permanent Resident, I was not entitled to Edusave subsidy). In addition to the money wasted, I spent time on weekly vocabulary and mathematics drills in class, time travelling to the testing centre and time doing the test.

After spending all that money and time, I don’t even get a certificate. The score is recorded by the SAT company and only accessible online.

The whole experience was so farcial, it remains one of the reasons for my enduring dislike of Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who was Education Minister during this debacle. The SAT was a poorly justified, badly thought-out policy which was hastily withdrawn with little to no explanation. Hardly a demonstration of competence, foresight or good decision-making.

Why the SAT was unnecessary and there was no good reason to introduce it in the first place:

  • The SAT is used in the United States because the different states and high schools all have their own curriculum and examinations. A standard test is used to grade all the different applicants. Instead of setting their own entrance tests like some other countries, the US universities have outsourced it to a private company.
  • The majority of Singapore local university admissions are via the A-level examinations. This is already a standardised examination system for the entire country.
  • The English and Mathematics SATs are a redundant duplication of the General Paper and Mathematics examination taken by the majority of A-level students.
  • The SATs are set at a lower standard (simpler multiple-choice questions) compared to the General Paper and A-level Mathematics examination.

Pure and simple, the SAT was a mistake, an expensive one. It clearly profited the company selling it. It resulted in a great expenditure of taxpayer funds. I cannot help suspecting that some hidden motive was behind the decision.

The few internet links on the 2003-2004 SAT nonsense:

Partial newspaper articles:




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