Is the SAT still relevant?

Many institutions and scholars argue that the SAT is no longer useful for most college bound students

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A multiple choice answer sheet, similar to the ones used in the SAT.

by Sophia DeBon, Reporter

At one time, the SAT was a must for any high school student planning to go to college, and yet today many colleges are no longer requiring standardized test scores as part of the admission process. Most of these colleges leave the decision of whether or not to submit SAT scores up to the student, while others won’t accept the scores at all.  

“I think that the SAT is rapidly losing its relevance, and I think that if I was a highschool student today, I might not even bother to take it,” said Kallie Szczepanski, a social studies teacher at Central Kitsap High School.

Sczcepanski emphasized that the PSAT could be more useful than the SAT itself, as a high score on the PSAT can qualify students for certain scholarships, including National Merit

Colleges began making the switch to test optional in the mid 2000s to increase diversity within their campuses. Due to factors such as the positive correlation between household income and SAT scores, colleges have started to see that high test scores may have less to do with academic ability, and more to do with privilege.

Many colleges and researchers have found that the SAT is not accurate in predicting college performance, as the actual correlation value between college performance and SAT scores is very low.

“The idea that we can use the SAT to predict whether or not a student will be able to pass their classes when they’re in college seems not entirely reliable on its own,” said Vicki Johnson, a math teacher at Central Kitsap High School.

Johnson said that she believes the SAT is an antiquated way of filtering students, and that colleges should focus more on a student’s GPA. 

“I think the relevance and application of the SATs have yet to be fully determined, until we know how many students opt out,” said Kate Lane, an English teacher at Central Kitsap High School.  “If most students choose to take the SAT, will post-secondary schools use that data in their determination for college placement? Absolutely, because it is another piece of information about those students. Although it may not be required, it will be reviewed”  

Despite the declining relevance of the SAT, some say there is still value to be found in it, as they feel it is an integral part of the highschool experience, and could potentially be beneficial to students. 

“I think that students benefit from a test that enompasses all of the subjects, and is standardized in a way that they can see where they are in relation to other students in the country,” Lane said.

Lane added that the SAT is a part of the highschool experience, and that, in a way, it unifies students across the country who are all studying for and taking the SAT at the same time.

Colleges have individual policies regarding their use of the SAT in the admission process. The three main policies, excluding those that require the SAT, are:

Test Optional

The most common SAT policy; test optional lets the student decide whether or not to send their SAT scores to the school. Students should decide whether or not their test scores are an accurate representation of their academic ability. The University of Washington’s test optional policy is as follows: 

At the UW, you will not be disadvantaged for sending low scores or for not sending scores. In fact, when reading your application, the reviewers will not see your test scores, if provided. However, high test scores (1400 SAT/31 ACT or above) may be considered for a handful of students who may not otherwise be admitted” 

Test Flexible 

A test flexible policy still requires test scores of some kind, but they do not necessarily have to be from the SAT. These policies vary by college, for example, NYU’s test flexible policy states: 

To be eligible for admission, you must submit one of the following:

  • SAT (essay not required)
  • ACT (writing test not required)
  • Three SAT subject test scores
  • Three AP exam scores
  • International baccalaureate (IB) diploma
  • Three IB higher level exam scores if not an IB diploma candidate
  • Certain international qualifications that shows you completed your secondary education

Test Blind 

Test blind means that SAT scores have no bearing whatsoever on whether or not a student is accepted, as the college does not ever look at the scores. 

UC Berkeley is test-free, meaning we will no longer use standardized exams (SAT and ACT) in our review process,UC Berkeley’s test blind policy states.

Around 75% of all colleges in the US have adopted one of these policies, most of them permanently, and others temporarily (though it could become permanent for some).

The exclusion of the SAT from most college’s admissions process is good news for many students. Despite all of this, students should still do their own research to decide if the SAT is relevant for them.