Archive for December, 2011

SAT and ACT Tests Do Not Measure Success

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

                                                                          “What do you mean by that?” you ask. “Isn’t it true that colleges that ask for SAT and ACT test scores are doing so to determine the applicant’s success at that college?” Yes, that is what they say, but those colleges that still use those scores do so as an easy benchmark to categorize an applicant in the early stages of review. That is particularly true at large universities, public and private.

     Bowdoin was the first ‘very competitive’ college to announce that they would not require the SAT or ACT scores. It was a brilliant marketing move because applications increased along with rejections resulting in a lower percentage of admitted students. Not to mention that applicants who did score well, submitted their scores, thus creating a higher average score overall. That was when college ranking systems were becoming ubiquitous. The US News & World Report spawned a new and very profitable niche in magazine publishing.  

     Since then, over 800 colleges have instituted a “test optional” policy. Keep in mind, however, that all colleges place more importance on the rigor of the high school transcript and that means that more scrutiny will be placed there. That has ALWAYS been the case at the more competitive colleges.

     Having said that, however, many of those test optional colleges still buy the names of high test scorers from the “non-profit” gold mine called the College Board. How do you spell “hypocritical”? On the other hand, test optional Bard College in the beautiful Hudson River Valley of New York, does not buy names from the College Board. That means they look at the potential for success in an applicant in depth.

     Now what about the success thing? How do you measure success? Is success measured in material possessions, personal relationships, career satisfaction, happiness, financial security or optimal health physically and spiritually? Look around you. I would bet that if you were to know the SAT or ACT scores of adults you would not see an appreciable difference in successful outcomes between the high and average scorers. I have known a few scientists and engineers and even some members of Mensa who had perfect scores in high school and college but because they live completely in their heads, particularly the self-limiting left brain; they are sometimes challenged when in comes to personal relationships, critical thinking and common sense.

     Nonetheless, I do believe that preparing for the SAT is very helpful for a student regardless if he or she has college aspirations. The best test prep we have found over the last 20 years of reviewing such programs is right here. The reason is that when you come right down to it, the SAT is a reasoning test. And we all have to learn to reason and sharpen our skills there, do we not? If you are parent or a student, walk through the 30 sample questions and you too, will have a light bulb go on over your head.