Does the SAT Measure Intelligence?

If I told you that Jack scored 1500 on the SAT, but Jill scored 2300 on the SAT, your immediate reaction is to believe that Jill is more intelligent than Jack. But is that really true?

The SAT is the standardized test that students view as an IQ test in high school classrooms across the country. Students are defined by their SAT scores. We are all guilty of judging people’s intellectual abilities based on a single four-digit number. If I told you that Jack scored 1500 on the SAT, but Jill scored 2300 on the SAT, your immediate reaction is to believe that Jill is more intelligent than Jack. But is that really true?

While it is likely that students with higher SAT scores are more academically gifted than their peers, it’s certainly not a guarantee. Jack may be a poor test-taker. Jill may have prepared extensively for the SAT. Jack may be well versed in areas other than vocabulary and algebra. A myriad of other reasons could account for the discrepancies in their scores.

In my case, I was certainly not the sharpest 16-year-old in high school. I was just a regular teenager who liked hanging out with friends, used SparkNotes for far too many books instead of reading them, had an affinity for In-N-Out Burger, and scored a 1760 on my first practice SAT. But despite my lack of knowledge about the college admissions process, I was able to achieve a perfect 2400 score on the official SAT. How did this happen? I worked very hard preparing for the SAT after receiving my first practice SAT score back. I spent long hours at the library with SAT practice questions analyzing every misstep I made in my test-taking approaches to problems.

I believe that my personal story serves as concrete evidence that an SAT score is not a measure of one’s intelligence. Instead, your SAT score is a better indicator of how hard a student is willing to work to prepare for the SAT. A low SAT score is most likely due to a lack of preparation over any other cause. There is no reason you should take the SAT blindly, especially when there are a plethora of SAT prep materials to work with (including my own!).

But no matter what, do not let your SAT score—or any other standardized test score, for that matter—define you. Never think that you are not intelligent because of a low SAT score. And never think that you are the next Einstein because of a high SAT score. Both a defeatist and a haughty attitude are detrimental to your future success. Instead, understand what your SAT score really represents: how well you take the SAT. Nothing more, nothing less. And know that you can improve your SAT score through training for it, so it’s in your best interest to prepare. You can be a genius with a regular SAT score, or a regular kid with a genius-like SAT score! It’s all up to how hard you work, not how smart you are. Start your preparation today!

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About Shaan Patel

Shaan Patel

Shaan Patel is the founder of Prep Expert Test Preparation, a #1 bestselling SAT & ACT prep author, an MD/MBA student at Yale and USC, and the winner of an investment deal with billionaire Mark Cuban on ABC’s Shark Tank. He raised his own SAT score from average to perfect using 100 strategies taught in Prep Expert's SAT and ACT courses.


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