Education Opinion

The Immortal SAT

By Walt Gardner — February 28, 2014 1 min read
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Just when it seemed nothing new could possibly be written about the SAT, many employers are asking job applicants for their scores, regardless of their age (“Job Hunting? Dig Up Those Old SAT Scores,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 26). Never mind an applicant’s track record. SAT scores apparently still matter.

The rationale is that SAT scores are an indicator of IQ and/or of subject matter competency. I can’t think of a more useless indicator of the ability to be successful in one’s job. That’s because the SAT does not measure the soft skills that have proved to be so important in the workplace. I’m referring to such things as the ability to work with others and to endure in the face of failure. Further, what possible relevance do scores posted by high school seniors have a decade or more later?

Nevertheless, many companies persist in the fiction that the SAT is a reliable factor in predicting success. Even when two candidates bring almost identical backgrounds, I doubt that the SAT provides any useful information in making a hiring decision. I tried to make a distinction between an aptitude test and an achievement test (“UnSATisfactory,” Education Week, Jun. 14, 2006). But companies confuse the two when they say that the SAT measures the knowledge and skills in a given subject. For example, heavy emphasis is placed on the math section in the assumption that being above the 95th percentile is a prerequisite for success.

One day, historians will look back at the SAT as a curious relic of assessment and our obsession with it. This is seen when mothers or fathers decide to take the test again, probably as a way of getting a better idea of what their children are going through (“Big Score,” The New Yorker, Mar. 3). Whatever the reason, I think it’s masochistic. But it’s interesting to note their reactions, which usually center on the trickiness of the items.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.