March 8, 2011
The more the conventional wisdom denounces standardized testing, the more money there is to be made in standardized testing. For example, the whole world decided about a decade ago that filling in ovals with a Number 2 pencil couldn't possibly be a good test of Critical Thinking skills, so essays were added to many tests, such as the SAT and GRE.
This increased the cost (and slowed down the grading) considerably. Today, thousands of people, typically temps, are employed each year grading the essay portion of standardized tests. This article by Jessica Lussenhop of the Minneapolis City Pages takes you behind the scenes of essay grading. It's not a particularly edifying scene (although not all that dismal).
The take home lesson I get is that you should make sure your first sentence is sterling. Graders don't have time to read your essay carefully, so you want to make a good first impression.