Opinion: A Standardized Scam

Millions of students prepare throughout the year to take the SAT, but is it really worth the stress?


Isha George

As the effectiveness of the SAT is increasingly questioned, more and more schools are adopting test-optional admission policies.

Ava DiGiacomo, Staff Writer

It’s six o’clock on a Saturday morning. After a long week of school, the only thing you want to do is smash the snooze button on your alarm and continue sleeping. However, today you are not so lucky. You stumble out of bed as the sun is rising outside your window. Begrudgingly, you lift yourself from the bed, grab breakfast and make your way towards North Allegheny Senior High School.

By 7:15 your proctor has sat you in your assigned seat. Moments later, the SAT begins. 

In 1926, the College Board invented the SAT. This multiple choice question test has since been administered to students with the intent of establishing a level playing field for high school students. This test is used to determine a student’s readiness for college, based on reading comprehension, English grammar and style, and mathematical computation and reasoning.  The College Board reported that, in 2020, over two million students took the test at least once.

However, the value of the SAT has not gone unquestioned. In fact, many studies have concluded that the test is an inaccurate measure of a student’s academic potential. 

A study done by psychologist Claude Steele showed that the SAT only measures 18% of the skills necessary to succeed in school, ignoring aspects such as critical thinking about real-world problems, discipline, and motivation.

Conclusions such as Steele’s have led more and more American colleges and universities to adopt a test-optional admissions policy.  At present, more than 1,785 schools in the U.S. — more than three-quarters of all colleges and universities in the country — no longer require SAT or ACT scores. 

 NASH junior Isha George plans to submit her test scores next year, but she has mixed feelings.

“I think the best thing about the SAT is that it teaches you academic endurance, but in terms of it being something that determines your college options, I disagree with it,” George said. “There are more accurate ways for a college to determine whether they should admit a student. I think that decision should be made on who that student is as a person and what they can contribute to the school, rather than an arbitrary standardized test.”

[I]t really comes down to the amount of prep you do. People who perform extremely well most likely have spent hours of their time and a lot of money on classes and study books which many people cannot afford.”

— Thrisha Kalpatthi, NASH junior

NASH junior Thrisha Kalpatthi agrees with George on the SAT’s shortcomings.

“I don’t believe that the SAT measures academic intelligence as a whole,” Kalpatthi said. “[I]t really comes down to the amount of prep you do. People who perform extremely well most likely have spent hours of their time and a lot of money on classes and study books, which many people cannot afford. The test restricts creativity, with its rigid subjects and rules. Students who don’t perform well can still excel in their college studies–it doesn’t make or break your career.”

Kalpatthi, along with many others, advocates for all schools to embrace a test-optional policy.

“A student can choose to take the test if they feel confident, or they can just focus on other aspects of their application and dedicate time to the activities they are passionate about. It allows the student to showcase who they really are, their passions, dedication, motivation, and drive, that a mere standardized test score cannot,” Kalpatthi said.

However, the need for the SAT remains a hot-button issue, and it’s just as easy to find studies conluding that the standardized test is an accurate measure of intelligence.

According to The New York Times, researchers from the University of Minnesota that “SAT performance is as good of a predictor of overall college grade point average as it is of freshman grade point average.” 

Another study by Vanderbilt researchers David Lubinski and Camilla Benbow reports, “The SAT predicts life outcomes well beyond the college years, including income and occupational achievements.

Though the debate over the merits of the SAT will likely continue, one thing remains clear–millions of high school students will likely continue to send money to the College Board and set their Saturday morning alarms.