SAT not a valid predictor of college success

Schools rely too much on standardized test scores

Elsa Anderson, Staff Reporter
Originally published June 15, 2017

James Johnson

James Johnson

As a junior with college applications fast approaching, the SAT has been on my mind a lot. Why are applications so dependent on a single score? What does the SAT show colleges about students? It is widely accepted as a test to predict a student’s success in college, yet with a growing number of test-optional schools (schools that don’t require a standardized test score to complete the application), the SAT seems less than relevant.

A three year study of such colleges across the nation, conducted by William C. Hiss, former Dean of Admissions at Bates College, showed that admissions decisions for students who did not submit ACT or SAT scores to test-optional colleges were just as reliable as those for students who did submit their test scores. He and his colleagues found that only .05 percent of a GPA point set apart those who submitted test scores and those who did not (Washington Post).

Because it does not predict college success, I don’t think it should be required in applications. Additionally, the study found that the students most likely to apply without test scores were minorities, women, first generation college enrollees, Pell Grant recipients and students with learning differences.

Some people may say that the SAT is a valuable tool because it lets students from all backgrounds have an opportunity to showcase their talent in a fair setting. While taking the SAT, students are given the same amount of time, the same instructions, and the same materials regardless of their circumstances outside of school.

While controlling testing conditions makes the SAT fair in theory, it does not make it fair in practice. There is a strong correlation between family income and SAT scores. Data released from the College Board and based o of the old SAT shows that when families have more money, they can likely afford tutoring or SAT classes that boost their score. This results in a disadvantage for students whose families are not able to afford such tutoring, even if they tend to perform well on tests and in their classes. The data showed that students whose families made between $0 and $20,000 had an average SAT score of 1326, while students whose families made between $80,000 and $100,000 had an average score of 1535, and students whose families made $200,000 or more per year had an average score of 1714.

While the College Board did make some changes to the SAT (such as getting rid of the vocabulary section and making the timed essay optional), partly as a measure to mitigate these gaps, students coming from wealthier families will still be able to get tutoring or coaching that other students may not have access to.

Because it is not a valid predictor of college success and creates a disadvantage to students with less money, the SAT should not be required for college admissions. Colleges should instead focus on students’ GPAs, as they more accurately reflect a student’s intellectual ability and drive.