Jersey Shore, College Prep? SAT Gives Students Reality-TV Essay Prompt

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REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Most high school students don’t prepare for the SAT by watching The Real World or Say Yes to the Dress. But maybe they should.

When the College Board introduced the essay section to the SAT in 2005, it was intended as a means for students to critically evaluate information they learned in the classroom. The prompts tend to be highly generic. For example, one prompt from this past Saturday’s exam asked, “Is patience a virtue?”

(More on TIME.com: See how reality TV has changed television)

Other students testing this Saturday had to address a question less typical of the SATs:

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?

While some high school students may be guilty of occupying should-be study time with American Idol reruns, others were flabbergasted by how ill-prepared they were for the pop-culture-based prompt.

At least now, all those high school students who spend hours gawking at Snooki and The Situation, can tell their parents they’re not frying their brains — they’re just studying for the SATs.

(More on TIME.com: See why reality TV is good for us.)

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