Do the SAT and ACT Predict College Success?


Picture by Jahninna Alegre

By Pranesh Kumar, Staff Writer

As the month of September passes, juniors and seniors across Quartz Hill high school are under pressure to either finish college applications or bolster their credentials to the best of their ability. Standardized test scores are an integral part of the application process and many students are hoping to do well in the upcoming SAT and/or ACT exams to make an impression on colleges. 

Most colleges in the United States require that applicants submit scores from the ACT or SAT in order to apply, which is why entire industries are dedicated for the purpose of helping students prepare for such exams. While having good scores on either exam is beneficial, the SAT or ACT is definitely not a make or break for college applicants. In fact, there are multiple reasons as to why the SAT and ACT are not effective ways of measuring a student’s ability to do well in college.

From a broader perspective, there is a trend in how well people perform in college with respect to their exam scores. Students who score higher on the SAT or ACT are slightly more likely to achieve higher grades during college and higher incomes after college. One of the main reasons for this trend is that top-tier colleges, which are proven to have heightened resources for students to succeed, accept students on average with higher test scores. This shouldn’t be an indication that the SAT and ACT are ideal exams for measuring success beyond the high school level.

One of the main components for having success at the college level is having stamina and grit. Students who put in a consistent and dedicated effort into their coursework are much more likely to succeed and carry on their work ethic into the workforce. This is the primary reason why GPA and AP exams, which require a long-term, in-depth study of a topic, are an ideal indicator for how much effort students will put in a college. 

As opposed to GPA and AP exams, the SAT and ACT are supposed to be broad indicators of one’s general knowledge in the core topics of English and math. Students who prepare for either exam generally don’t learn an extensive amount of information on a particular topic and instead master their ability to do well in the exam. Instead, preparing for the SAT or ACT is a lot like cramming for a test. Spending a lot of time studying for either exam will allow students to do well, but they won’t retain any information for the long term. 

Therefore, it is not worth it to treat both exams as ways to effectively predict college success.