SAT and its validity


10-Year Member
5-Year Member
Jun 10, 2007
I have read a couple of posts lately slamming the SAT and other admissions tests and want to make sure everyone knows how these tend to be used by a college and how valid they are. I don't wnat prospective SA applicants to downgrade their importance or blow them off....they have a place in the admissions process....just understand what that place is.

Let me preface this post by saying that I teach at a large, public university and that I realize the service academies are different, but from an academic point of view, they are not all that different from other colleges. I have experience at both the college administrative end of things, and I have three kids who have taken the SAT (and ACT), and scored high, very high, and fairly low respectively, so I know how many of you feel.

The SAT is a lousy predictor of college success, but all college administrators know that! It's old name was the Scholastic APTITUDE Test (it is now the SAT reasoning test), but the old name was really a better descriptor. It simply tells the college what your aptitude for learning college level material is. It is NOT an IQ or knowledge test. What it does tell us is "do you have the ability to succeed at college level learning". For that one purpose, it actually isn't a bad test. What it doesn't tell us is how hard you are willing to work, can you apply yourself, are you disciplined in your learning, etc.....all the things needed to judge your attitude towards learning. For that, college admissions counselors look at grades, gpa, class rank, classes taken, etc....

Like lots of people have stated, the SAT is simply part of a package, but it is important. I have heard people say "I don't test well, so that is why my SAT score is low". That statement really doesn't hold water.....what do you think a lot of college is? TESTS! So the SAT is important in that regard. And all a low score tells me is that college level learning doesn't come easy to you. Nothing more, nothing less. (And all a high score indicates is that you learn easily, not that you are brilliant or guaranteed success. It simply indicates high aptitude for learning.)

I know from experience that my college has turned down students with very high SAT scores, who had low grades/gpa/class rank. Why? They appeared to have aptitude, but couldn't back it up with performance. On the other hand, we routinely admit low SAT students with high grades/gpa/class rank. Again why? They may not have the aptitude, but they have the work ethic to succeed.

So the SAT is an important part of the package, but not the whole part. Don't fixate on your score, but don't dismiss poor performance with some sort of an excuse. Your SAT score is what it is...just an indicator of your aptitude........what is important is how do you handle it....what is your ATTITUDE!

The last thing to remember is that the package of SAT/gpa/class rank is only used to try to assess your performance during your first year in college. After you have attended college, all this stuff goes out the window! Now we have real performance to judge,...your first year college grades! So if your SAT/gpa/class rank isn't high enough to get you where you want to be, go out and show the college/SA of your choice that you have the ability and attitude they are looking for by going to college (any respected college will do) and performing to the best of your ability at that college. That is your best indicator of how well you will do at the school you want to get into. Past performance tends to predict future performance!

So keep the SAT and other tests in's part of a bigger package (and not always the most important part). Colleges understand it's limitations, but also it's uses. They are looking for aptitude, but what they really want is make sure your admissions package shows that. Thats the way to get into the college/SA of your choice.

Have a nice Christmas everybody!