William Raspberry, in his op-ed column on standardized tests such as the SAT, perpetuates the wrongheaded notion, as explained by psychologist Gerald Bracey, that "the myth of the common yardstick is silly on its face [because] the test might be standardized, but the kids are not" ["Subjective, Objective Truth," Sept. 27].

To say that the same score represents different things from different students is to mistake effort for achievement, and to adjust scores based on a student's background undermines the test. If the SAT is a valid measure of preparation and ability, then a 600 verbal is a 600 verbal, regardless of the student who earned it. Certainly, it represents a much greater achievement for a disadvantaged student than for a privileged one, but that is not what the SAT measures, which is readiness for college.

What Mr. Raspberry seeks is a test to measure ability independent of preparation and all the issues that factor into it. Even if such a test were possible -- and it isn't -- it would be useful only as an exercise in self-esteem, not as a tool for assessing preparation for college.

Slots at prestigious colleges are not "goodies" to be passed out like trophies, but intermediate steps in a long process of education. Prestigious colleges require a certain level of preparation and ability, and many students, though possibly bright enough, are not ready. And college, especially a prestigious college, is not the right place to begin honing raw ability. Acceptance to a prestigious college can't wipe away the effects of poor preparation. It's not fair, but gaming SAT scores will not change that fact.

Mr. Raspberry is correct that "no university in America would fill a freshman class by having its computer spit out the top SAT scores among applicants." So what's the problem?

Let the SAT measure what it's supposed to measure, and let the colleges do the rest.

JIM COHEN

Bethesda