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The Crazy Kids at ETS

The Director's Chair on LSATs

By Mark D. Director

While the Educational Testing Service toys with its haywire computer in the Tiger-infested regions of Princeton, N.J., students around the nation are grappling with an ever-increasing pre-law neurosis.

But, not to be discouraged by the mechanical failures of its data-spewing wonders, ETS has devised a new pasttime for score-searching seniors.

In the spirit of such soft-core sports events as "Battle of the NFL Cheerleaders," "Battle of the Network Superstars," and "Battle of the Soap Opera Idols," ETS has introducted its own barely-athletic competition. Taking the best elements of "Name That Tune," "The Price is Right," and "Password Plus," ETS is now playing "Guess Your Score," a rigorous psychic battle pitting student against testing service official.

Just this week, a senior from Eliot House who had entered the "Guess Your Score" competition spoke of her harrowing experience:

"I hadn't received my LSAT scores, and I was really pissed, so I called up ETS and said, 'What's going on?' The lady told me all the about all the foul-ups with the computer, and I told her I knew about all that. I asked her if she just could give me my scores."

Of course, LSAT scores, like all results from standardized tests, are secret, dark wonders not meant for overt discussion. After all, phone lines might be bugged and Third World undercover agents could be listening, hoping to gain valuable information about the nation's young people by hearing their test scores.

Rumor has it that the ETS originally considered developing a code by which students could call up, give a password and then be told their score, obscured in a mystical series of numbers and/or letters. But that idea was rejected as too technical.

Finally, ETS adopted the game-show competition format, capitalizing on the American public's love of sporting affairs.

The Eliot House senior continues her story:

"The lady said she couldn't give me my scores, so I asked if she could give me a range for them. I know some of my friends called and were told that their scores were between, say, 600 and 650, or whatever.

"But the lady said she couldn't do that, either. However, she said if I guessed a number, she could tell me if my score was higher or lower. I couldn't believe it. I was tempted to ask. 'What happens if I guess the score right on the nose? Do I get six cases of Redi-Whip or something?'"

No, ETS does not award prizes for correct guesses. Testing service officials have said, "The scores themselves are enough of a reward."

Anyway, this Eliot House senior, a Government major--of course--decided to enter the ETS competition.

"I gave her a score, and she said, 'No, no, not that high.' So I asked her if I get more than one guess. She said, 'Well (there was a pause), uh, I guess maybe you can have another try.'

"So I gave her another score--this time lower. And she said, 'Well, it was higher by just a teeny bit.' I couldn't believe it. I said. 'Why didn't you just tell me my score?"

Sociologists have suggested that this kind of competition further traumatizes and stigmatizes victims of the testing process. They have called it "counter-productive to the social aims of progressive educational theory." But sports observers have noted that the competition does provoke some emotional stimulation that could be healthy for grade-obsessed bookworms.

At least one Harvard senior has reported such an experience in his bout with the ETS. The conversation went like this:

Student: So you want a guess. Well, how about 700?

ETS: No, it's higher.

Student [with a more tense voice]: 750?

ETS: No, no, it's higher.

Student [with feeling]: Oh, shit.

ETS: Well, sir, it's not that high.

Those clever people in Princeton. What will they think of next?

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