The College Board recently made an announcement about its plans to change the SAT starting spring of 2016. Many believe this news is in response to mounting pressure from critics of standardized testing. Yet, those who have been most critical about tests like the SAT seem to be missing the point.
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Elizabeth Kolbert is one such skeptic. In The New Yorker, Kolbert writes that the SAT “measures those skills — and really only those skills — necessary for the SATs.” It’s a common criticism: that the SAT measures test-taking skills, but not those required for critical reasoning or creativity. In other words, critics of the SAT feel that it does a poor job of telling a prospective college or employer how a candidate will succeed in life, long after the test is taken.
Studies like one performed by a team of researchers at Vanderbilt University prove otherwise. The tracked 300 gifted children from age 13 until age 38, logging their accomplishments in academia, business, culture, health care, science, and technology. The children also took the SATs at an early age. Then, the researches correlated these SAT scores with the children’s IQs and accomplishments later in life. Not only did the research validate that SAT scores can be an indicator of intelligence and success later in life, the researchers findings validate the importance of standardized testing and its ability to gauge an individual’s IQ.
This is vital for a variety of reasons. The biggest one perhaps is summed up in a 2007 Science article that found IQ not only acts as an indicator of how well a person will do in college, but also in their chosen career afterwards.
Another criticism of the SAT is that it caters to the wealthy and privileged. Studies, such as those conducted by Paul Sackett and his fellow colleagues at the University of Minnesota, have shown that it’s actually one of the great equalizers for students who come from lower economic status.
From grades in school to employment after graduation, tests like the SAT measure far more than how smart a person is. Perhaps companies who ask candidates for test scores years later are on to something, after all.
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