SAT Scores Have Importantance
Imagine two students. One, whom we’ll call Harold, goes to an elite prep academy on the East Coast. His days are filled with endless studying since he is enrolled in advanced classes (Differential Calculus, Astrophysics, and Shakespeare) and the competition is intense. This year, despite all those 3 a.m. study sessions, he was able to only muster a 3.3 GPA.
The other student, Spencer, is enrolled in a 60-student school in a small town in America. He has always been top of the class and has had plenty of time for engaging extracurricular activities: captain of the baseball team, active in speech and debate, and a ferocious downhill skier come winter.
Who would you choose?
If you were the admissions officer at a competitive, whom would you pick? Harold or Spencer? Many of us see the phrase “top of the class” in Spencer’s quick bio and automatically choose him. He’s also a well-rounded and accomplished guy, compared to Harold, who seems to study far too much for his own good (psst! And he only got a 3.3).
But let’s see how our perception changes, when I add the following nugget of information:
SAT score: 1580 out of 1600
SAT score: 1120 out of 1600
Now, all of a sudden, Harold seems like a brainiac, whereas Spencer seems far more average.
But wait, you protest! Why should we even have the SAT in the first place? Can’t we get all the information we need to know by just looking at GPA and the other information? Well, that’s the thing. The exercise above shows that we can’t always rely on GPA, since it differs from school to school, and from region to region.
The SAT is important because it gives us a score that applies to everybody. It allows us, in a sense, to compare the apple of an elite public school to the orange of a small town rural school.
Now I’m not implying that the admissions doesn’t already take into account such factors as the school you go to—especially if it is an elite one—or the classes you take (it does), but it is still difficult to quantify just what effect these things have. For instance, how would the following piece of information color your perception of the two candidates:
SAT score: 1310 out of 1600
SAT score: 1300 out of 1600
The importance of the SAT in a nutshell
Simply put, an SAT score is a useful piece of information. It should not be the only piece of information—and it never is, even at those schools that weigh the most. But it is an important data point, that very few schools choose to ignore.
So however much you might rail against the test, or however many articles you read that decry the SAT as unfair, it still serves a useful purpose—to compare students, whether they be from very different walks of life or from the same small town rural school.
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About Chris Lele
Chris Lele is the GRE and SAT Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh Online Test Prep. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 10 million views. You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog! You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!
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