Opinions on the ACT and SAT: Do they really reflect our intellect?

The ACT and SAT. These are the two tests that tend to stress students out.  The score a student gets can be one of the deciding factors colleges look at when one applies to their school. However, does this score define a student’s intellect?

An article by Shaan Patel, co-creator of Veritas Prep SAT 2400, a test preparation company that specializes in online SAT, ACT and GMAT prep, talks about his personal experience and suggests that a major factor in doing well on either the ACT or SAT is prep work rather than a student’s intelligence in general. Students, including myself, find that practicing test-taking strategies help overall performance on the ACT and SAT, perhaps showing that simply having good test-taking skills helps students improve their scores rather than just their intelligence.

The College Board, however, has also weighed in on the matter. It has stated that the SAT “measures a students’ readiness for college.” It also states that they believe that it measures your knowledge in subjects over the years and “is the best way to show colleges you have the skills and knowledge they want most.”

Mr. Wyllie, a math teacher at West elaborated, “I think it [a standardized test] does reflect your intellect, it does give you a measure of your intelligence to some degree. Most of those tests are actually designed to predict success in college.” As to whether it is greatly attributed to test-taking skills, he said, “I think you can definitely improve your scores on those standardized by learning test-taking skills.” 

A few seniors and juniors at West have given their input on whether they believe the standardized tests measure their intellect or their test-taking abililities. Noor Ansari, senior, says, “The SAT and ACT do not indicate the intelligence of a person because of the effect of society and stress to do well on the test.” 

Sara Rajapkar, junior, says “Standardized tests do not reflect on an individual’s IQ level or overall intelligence due to the short time period and anxiety surrounding the tests.” It is shown that high stress, as well as other factors, can definitely affect how well students perform on tests. This is evident in a study by principal investigator and former (now retired) Bates College dean of admissions, William Hiss. The study showed  that these standardized tests don’t “accurately predict college success.”  Bates College no longer requires standardized tests scores with its application and only 40% of student applicants send them in.  Leigh Weisenburger, dean of admission and financial aid at Bates College, said that “while standardized tests are useful, we have found that three and a half years on a transcript will tell us much more about a student’s potential than three and a half hours on a Saturday morning.”

In a study by Andy Hudlow, a writer of the Knight Errant, a news website, he points out that certain subjects such as social studies, which we’ve been studying for countless years, aren’t even included in these standardized tests.

Although some colleges are getting rid of the requirement for standardized tests, our understanding of these tests may be limited. Mr. Wiencek,  Guidance Department Chair at Glenbard West, gave an insight as to some benefits of taking these tests and more information about them that most students don’t know. He mentioned that he believes these tests are “well-intended” but he also thinks “there’s a lot of strategy involved. If you were to take two people with the same relative intelligence, and one has had a lot of prep work on the test, they’re gonna score a lot better than the person that does not have any.”

However, these scores are not the only thing colleges look at when it comes to sorting through applicants. According to Mr. Wiencek, “Tests are the third most important [element] in terms of what colleges look at.” Not only this, but he mentions that “the rigor or the courses students are taking and the grades of the courses” are both important aspect as well, and take the top two slots in importance. Colleges also want to see “you challenge yourself without overwhelming yourself.” As for whether the concept of colleges getting rid of the requirement for standardized tests, he said “I don’t think it’s a better idea, but I think it might be better for some. Usually, they’re not ruling out testing they’re just saying you don’t need to send them.”

Colleges such as Pitzer College, NYU, Arizona State University, and more have decided to not require the scores of these standardized tests. The reason behind this is that they want you to decide whether or not the results of your test accurately represent your academic level. This also allows you to have more choice and control in terms of how you present yourself, according to an article by Rebecca Safier, a Harvard graduate student who scored within the 99th percentile of the SAT.

Overall, students should determine what they are interested in and research which colleges they are considering to see whether or not they require the SAT or ACT. If they do, it is important to remember that while these tests may measure your college preparedness for some, they are also not the only factor colleges look at when deciding who to admit.