Are standardized tests a true measure of intelligence?

Lindsay Steinberg, Copy Chief

Are SAT scores as important as the educational system makes students believe they are? During a student’s entire educational career they are told about these dreaded exams they must take prior to college applications and how they must study for them, with there even consisting of several websites and tutor opportunities to help. 

SAT is believed to measure college readiness, which many would correlate with intelligence, and if the student is at the “level” that college will be asking of his/her. When in reality, this could not be further from the truth. The test alone cannot trace one’s intellectual ability as a student, the credibility of the college the student wants to attend, nor the student’s potential future income and career opportunities. Instead, it simply displays how good a student is  at preparing for and taking a test, which is where the “college readiness” comes from. 

Imagine a student takes the SAT and gets a 1200, without any preparation or studying, while there is another student who studied for hours on end and left the SAT with a 1500. Is this really a valuable measurement of intelligence? 

Another factor is the quite evident score difference when there is a wealth gap.Many sets of data have shown wealthier students tend to score much higher on the SAT than students with a lower income. As seen in research done by Brookings in 2018, students in families with a lower income with an average of around $25,000, average around an 800 and higher income families average around a 1200. While this is not an end all or be all point, that can also differentiate depending on the person, and it’s still a pattern that many seem to notice. 

With the rise of COVID-19 and prestigious schools, like Harvard no longer requiring scores up until 2026, it poses the question of “Why”? Yes, tests such as the SAT require packing a school with students to take the test, but why for such a long period of time and even when the College Board is still offering the tests. If colleges look to these exams to see if a student is ready to gain admission, it raises curiosity as to why they are willing to put off accepting scores for so long. 

From a scholarship standpoint, submitting your test scores still makes sense as they can give you thousands of dollars off your education. Maybe if you scored very well on the test and it could come off as desirable to an institution you may be applying to, it may be worth submitting to make your application stand out amongst the thousands submitted. 

Should the tests be looked to as a definition of someone’s intelligence, though? Probably not. There’s too many factors and studies that show otherwise. While the SAT may be helpful, it cannot be a definition of whether or not someone has the “intelligence” that’ll be asked of them in college.