SAT Scores are an Ineffective Approach to Understanding Students

Since March, many high school students—specifically the class of 2021—have dealt with cancellations and uncertainty regarding the SAT. In Massachusetts, most students faced the cancellations of their March, May, June, August and September SAT dates due to COVID-19 restrictions. This has increased feelings of anxiety and stress, as early decision and early action deadlines for some colleges are right around the corner. To alleviate some stress, as well as acknowledge that it is impossible for all students to get scores, many colleges have decided to become temporarily test-optional, meaning that scores are unnecessary for applicants. Others have been test-optional for a few years. So why do high school students deem it crucial to have an SAT score?

SAT scores are an ineffective approach to understanding high school students and should not be considered for college entry. There is no reason that a single test that consists of only four sections should be used to justify a student’s acceptance to or rejection from a college. SAT scores are simply not enough to help determine the abilities or character of a student.

Most people would agree that every individual has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to school, that might mean study skills, note taking strategies or even cramming information in the night before the test. After all, everyone learns differently: there are auditory learners, visual learners, kinesthetic learners or reading and writing learners. When it comes to test-taking, there are definitely different types of test-takers as well.

The regular SAT—which stands for Scholastic Assessment Test—consists of a reading section, writing and language section, math without calculator section, and math with a calculator section for a total of 1600 points with the option of adding the essay. There is no opportunity for students to demonstrate their skills in science or social studies classes, where their true strengths may lie, putting them at a disadvantage. In Massachusetts and some other states, the cost of the first SAT is not covered, so less wealthy students have less of an ability to take or to repeatedly take the SAT, unlike those that can pay more money to take the test on multiple occasions. Additionally, some have the opportunity of hiring SAT based tutors in order to teach students how to answer SAT questions, but these tutors come at high prices, which further disadvantages those that cannot afford it. 

Although it is likely that many colleges only use SAT scores to sift through larger pools of applicants, it is still unfair, as people that performed poorly on a test could be denied entry to a college without admissions looking further into their grades. For example, big schools with high numbers of applicants will require an SAT score in order to create a “cut-off” in which all applicants must have an SAT score greater than or equal to in order to be considered for admittance. 

College admission should only be based on grades throughout high school, beginning with freshman year and concluding with the first half of senior year. This transcript shows far more about a student, such as the grades and levels of classes taken. Also, a student can easily identify and explain any low grades or mishaps throughout high school, to help colleges understand that each student is more than just a number. Letters of Recommendation from teachers, commitment or achievement in clubs and activities, and academic honors explain so much more about a student, as well. 

In 2019, the College Admissions Scandal proved just how unfair the SAT can be. According to, in October 2019, a proctor pleaded guilty to changing a student’s answers in their answer booklet for bribes. Although this cheating is rare, it is not impossible and it is more than likely that this could take place again. Once again, those with money are given an advantage over those that do not have money and those that are taking the test fairly. 

SAT scores fail to demonstrate the strengths of high school students and increase stress among college applicants. Even during a pandemic, the SAT is still considered more important than keeping safe, as many students have had to travel into different towns and states to take the SAT. This societal norm of needing to have an SAT score should be diminished and colleges should not consider the SAT as a make-or-break when it comes to admissions.