There has been much debate over rules that require entering scholarship athletes to score at least 700 on the SAT. But there has been little attention to what a 700 score really means. The SAT is like a ladder on which the rungs become narrower on each step. For this reason, it is possible to determine, very roughly, the questions at which students scoring under 700 start falling off. Here is a multiple-choice sentence completion of the kind that tends to sort out borderline athletes.

To the professor, who assumed that a great degree of ____ should always attend youth, the young man had already been too ____.

(A) modesty/presumptuous

(B) enthusiasm/independent

(C) innocence/naive

(D) humility/emotional

(E) optimism/successful

(The correct answer is A.)

Even the Educational Testing Service, which produces the SAT, opposes the use of cutoff scores. ``No one has shown us a valid reason for [using] 700,'' says Tom Ewing, an ETS spokesman. He calls the use of such cutoffs ``contrary to the way admissions scores are supposed to be used.''

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