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If you’re completely new to the whole SAT prep process, you might be wondering, “Just what is the SAT test for, anyway?”
Leave aside all details of what the SAT is and what you need to do to prepare for it…
The SAT helps colleges compare students from different high schools
This is one of the most important reasons that the SAT exists (same with its main competitor, the ACT test).
Different high schools, with different lesson plans and different teachers, will naturally show a variation in difficulty levels.
A prep school in New York City might be much more competitive than a small-town school in Texas (or it might be the other way around!).
Because it would be unfair to assume that all high schools are equally difficult, the SAT acts as a sort of “equalizer” that helps colleges and scholarships compare the academic achievement levels of students from two different high schools.
The SAT provides a helpful approximation of your verbal and math skills
Admittedly, the SAT is far from “perfect.” However, the authors of the test are continually researching and updating the SAT in order to make it a more accurate diagnostic of a student’s verbal and math skills.
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I say “approximation” because the SAT can absolutely provide a rough estimate of your math and verbal skills, compared to the national average for high schoolers in your graduation year.
The SAT tests “College Readiness”
Many of the subjects and topics on the SAT are designed to test skills and knowledge that will be frequently used in college.
By testing you on critical thinking, writing, and grammar skills, the SAT will help admissions officers decide if you are ready to study at their college or university.
The SAT demonstrates your ability to succeed under pressure
There’s no question that the SAT is a highly-stressful experience for many students. The difficulty of the questions, the difficulty of the reading assignments and vocabulary-based questions, the sheer length and time limits of the test, and the built-up social pressure from parents, friends, and teachers can make the SAT seem like a nightmare.
However, college admissions officers understand that college will also be a stressful experience.
Sure, college is fun and educational, but it also involves a lot of academic pressure.
Students who can succeed on the SAT can also probably succeed in overcoming the intense pressures of an elite college. That’s one more reason that universities like students with high SAT scores.
The SAT, combined with your grades, gives a good idea of your achievement level
Neither your SAT score, nor the grades on your transcript, are enough on their own to tell everything about you.
However, when combined, your grades and SAT score provide an excellent snapshot of your academic experience, abilities, and drive. You can take the test more than once, so your SAT score is also a measure of your determination and long-term planning.
An experienced college admissions officer can often decide instantly if you are a good fit for their college, based on the combination of SAT score and high school GPA.
The SAT provides colleges info on your reading, vocabulary, grammar, writing, logic, and basic math skills
The SAT score report can be broken down into specific categories and topics, which allows some additional insight into your academic strengths and weaknesses.
Not very good at math?
Well, if you’re applying to a Creative Writing major at a small liberal arts school, the admissions officer might decide that your vocab and verbal abilities are where you really shine, and accept you because math isn’t as necessary for your chosen field of study.
However, if you’re considering a degree in economics, for example, they might prefer to see a well-rounded applicant who can handle data interpretation, basic math, as well as crucial writing and communications skills.
The SAT isn’t everything, but it counts for a lot
Everyone knows that your SAT score doesn’t determine your entire life.
I know people with great SAT scores but with no success in life.
I also know plenty of people with poor SAT scores who have gone on to start companies or become very successful in other ways.
However, when it comes to getting into college, a great SAT score is one of the best things you can put on your application.
Plus, it’s always a good reason to work on your reading and vocabulary skills, which will come in handy for the rest of your schooling and career.
After college, your success is up to you, but when it comes to simply getting in, the SAT test provides valuable information about your academic qualifications… and that’s what the SAT test is for, after all!
What is a Good SAT Score? A pro tutor’s thoughts.
SAT Importance: Can this test really affect your future forever?
Is the SAT Hard?
How many times can you take the SAT?
A Comparison of SAT and ACT Tests
A Brief History of the SAT Test
What are SAT 2 Subject Tests and Who Should Take Them?