SAT’s Value Completely Unwarranted

September 20, 2010

The SAT is useless. Chances are that if you are a student on this campus, you have taken the dreaded SAT. In fact, the initials themselves most likely conjure up memories of anxiety and dread that afflicted you during your final year of high school. The SAT strikes fear into the hearts of many because it has a profound impact on your plans for college. On closer examination, however, the importance of the SAT is completely unwarranted.

In 2001, the University of California – one of the largest users of the SAT – proposed abandoning the SAT altogether. The university conducted a study that gathered the transcripts of 78,000 college freshman over three years and looked at “predictive validity”, a measure of how well a student will do as a college freshmen based on his or her performance on a test. The results: the SAT is a pitiful indicator of success in college. According to Charles Murray, Harvard graduate and former proponent of the SAT, “the SAT’s independent role in predicting freshman grade point turned out to be so small that knowing the SAT score added next to nothing to an admissions officer’s ability to forecast how an applicant will do in college.”

Why then is the SAT so highly esteemed? For decades it has long been believed that the SAT measures “innate ability,” which helps create a level playing field for students who may not have attended quality high schools but were still academically gifted. That also appears to be a false belief. The UC study revealed that, “after controlling for parental income and education, the independent role of the SAT in predicting freshman grade point disappeared altogether,” according to “The American.”

I remember the first time I took the SAT (I try to forget). I got a score within 10-20 points of a friend of mine. It was a decent score, but not anything that would get me a full ride. My friend took the test again a few months later after taking an SAT prep course, and boosted her score 150 points. Her “innate ability” must have increased significantly in those few months; either that or the only thing the SAT really tests is your ability to take tests.

Although college admission is usually based on many factors, not just SAT scores, the difference of a few hundred points could mean the difference in thousands of dollars in scholarships. The amount of financial aid received has a huge impact on one’s decision to attend a certain college. Your decision of which college to attend will significantly affect your life after college, and so on. So much is dependent upon those SAT scores.

It hardly seems fair for so much to ride on a test that seems to measure nothing more than how well you can take the SAT. But I really don’t have time to complain. I’m too busy studying for another aptitude test – the dreaded GRE.

How about you? What has been your experience with the SAT? Do you feel it should be thrown out?

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