Does the SAT actually matter?


Natalie Kester

One of the biggest tests that high school students will ever take is their SAT, or so many would believe. The SAT along with other standardized tests like the ACT or AP exams are created to show a student’s ability and viability for college, but these tests do a poor job demonstrating what students really know. The SAT and other standardized testing are typically required for acceptance into colleges, but they are unfair to students and do not properly reflect the students’ academic merit and potential. 

Many colleges across the nation require the SAT or other standardized testing for acceptance into higher education, but this proves to be unfair to the students due to cost and varying access to resources across the country. When all the costs of the tests are added up, “odds are many students and their families are paying hundreds of dollars just to be considered, turning college testing into a billion dollar industry” (Saxena). The biggest issue is that many standardized tests are either required by colleges or greatly increase chances of acceptance, but not every student has access to the proper resources to do well on these tests.

While the costs of the tests themselves are not overly expensive, and students may be able to qualify for financial aid, this still does not give everyone the proper resources to do well on tests. Demographically, schools in wealthier areas will have much more funding and higher education standards than schools in poorer areas. In addition, outside resources like prep classes or other studying resources are quite expensive, so those who can afford them are given an unfair advantage. The costs that are required to take and properly prepare for the exams makes standardized testing into a reflection of wealth rather than knowledge, and does not offer an equal chance for people of all demographics.

Standardized testing is one of the major tools that colleges use in considering students for acceptance into their schools, but the reality is that these tests do a poor job of measuring a student’s actual potential. The SATs originally stood for the Scholastic Aptitude Test, with  “the word ‘aptitude’ meaning…an innate ability, rather than knowledge acquired through schooling” (“The Sat And The Prep Business – What Does The Sat Really Measure?”). While this has changed slightly over the years, the SAT and other forms of standardized testing still measure students’ test-taking skills, not their knowledge of a subject.

Today, the SAT is required by most schools for a student’s consideration, let alone acceptance into higher education. Although the SAT has been around for a long time, “the test has been found to measure only about 18 percent of the things that it takes to do well in school, and thus is not a very good predictor of how a student will do in college” (“The Sat And The Prep Business – What Does The Sat Really Measure?”). The ability to take an exam for “aptitude” is far different from testing a student’s academic knowledge and skills.

Most forms of standardized testing fail to reflect their merit and potential in college, and it would be far more beneficial to students if colleges did not require exam scores at all. Even though many, “[Colleges and universities] recognize that neither the SAT nor ACT measures what students most need to succeed in higher education” (800 Schools Don’t Care About Your SATs), the SAT is still a big factor for most college applications. A much more useful tool would be to use GPA or the student’s overall performance throughout high school, instead of simply using one, high-stress, high-stakes test.

Among other things, the SAT and standardized tests themselves are high-stress tests that cause many students some anxiety due to the stigma surrounding it. The SAT does a poor job reflecting one’s academic merit, but it is widely believed among many students that if they do poorly on the SAT, they will not get into college. But the test should not be able to determine anything for students, and the amount of stress and anxiety that it throws upon students goes to show that it is a poor reflection of how well they can actually perform.

Standardized testing is meant to show students’ skills and knowledge, but it has turned into a sign of wealth and basic ability. There are a great many factors that reflect a student’s academic ability, yet many colleges still require the SAT and other forms of standardized testing for consideration. Standardized testing is an unfair method used by colleges that does not fairly demonstrate students’ abilities and viability for college.


Works Cited

Organization. “800 Schools Don’t Care About Your SATs.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 6 Apr. 2015,

“The Sat And The Prep Business – What Does The Sat Really Measure? | Secrets Of The Sat 

| FRONTLINE.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service,

Saxena, Jaya. “The SAT and ACT Can Be Prohibitively Expensive for Some Students.” Vox, 

Vox, 28 Mar. 2019,


To read a Features piece on this topic, read How important is your SAT score? by Madeline Uhler.