ACT® Prep

Afraid of the ACT? You should be - it's a beast. But Shmoop knows where it's ticklish.

SAT Scores for College

Is This the Only Thing Colleges Look At? Doesn’t the Fact That I’m Double-Jointed Carry Any Weight at All?

Well, we’re impressed, for what it’s worth. But no, most admissions offices are fairly unconcerned about what weird things you can do with your body.

The SAT is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to being accepted at a college or university, but it’s a pretty huge chunk. Your academic record is taken into consideration, of course (hopefully it’s longer and more impressive than your prison record), as well as your involvement in extracurricular activities and whether you have exhibited any leadership qualities in any of your ventures.

Colleges want the best and the brightest. If you’re naturally gifted and sailed through all your classes from kindergarten on, but refused to study a lick for the SAT and bombed it horribly, your history of excellence may not matter so much. An admissions officer is going to look at your subpar performance on the test and take that as a warning sign or indicator that you either don’t have the work ethic that will be needed at the college level, or else that your academic performance up to that point was a bit flukish and your SAT score finally revealed your true colors. Either way, an Ivy League may now be out of your league.

Are There Any Other Reasons to Take This Test?

Taking the test is mostly to appease college admissions officers. But the test is not otherwise wholly without merit.

You’re about to set out on the path that will lead to the rest of your life. Hopefully this will include college. Even more hopefully this will include employment of some type. The material covered on the SAT - much of which you will have only a dim recollection of unless you work like the dickens to refresh your memory - is going to come in handy quite often in your future days. By diving in and reviewing all of the subject matter, you are going to enhance your understanding of everything you’ve learned over the past several years, and by doing so make yourself an overall more desirable and well-rounded student, employee and human being. Even if you’re not that worried about what type of human being you’ll turn out to be, the first two still apply.

The test can also serve as a barometer of your scholastic aptitude to satisfy your own curiosity. If you’ve ever wanted to know how you stack up against the rest of the herd, this is your way to find out. As we mentioned, test-taking abilities are valued here almost as much as material retention, so your score may be a somewhat qualitative one, but it should still give you a pretty good idea. If you score a 215, for example, it’s probably safe to say you’re not a future Rhodes Scholar.

As we told you, you’re mostly taking this test so that you improve your chances of succeeding in college. But it isn’t all about just getting accepted. You can open up scholarship opportunities, bypass introductory college courses, and potentially even fulfill your writing assessment requirement for certain institutions just by having already taken the test. And perhaps most importantly of all, it will test your ability to sit in one place while nearly motionless for hours on end. Welcome to the American workforce. We’ll make you a coffee.

Are There Any Other Options? I’ll Do Anything - Anything!

An option that doesn’t involve taking a huge test? Not really, no. You could take the ACT instead - it may just depend on what’s offered wherever it is that you go to school. And don’t be misled by the fact that ACT scores only go up to 36 - there are actually more questions on the ACT than on the SAT - your score is simply a composite score of your performance on each of the four sections. And you thought you had just uncovered a loophole.

Your other option is to not take any test of any kind, go to a small community college or skip it altogether, work as a minion in some stock room or factory and struggle financially (and probably physically and emotionally as well) for the remainder of your time on Earth. On the other hand, if you spend just a little time studying remainders, your quality of life from here on out may be much improved.

What If the School I Want to Get Into Doesn’t Require That I Take the SAT? Gotcha!

Well, yes and no. If you are really set on one college in particular and that school clearly specifies that they do not require new students to have taken the SAT, then technically you don’t need to take it. But what if you change your mind? What if a better option is suddenly presented to you? And what if - God forbid - you don’t get accepted at that dream college of yours (who knows - maybe they weren’t impressed by your note stating you had a “barely above average GPA”) and you need a backup plan? Might be a good idea to have that SAT in your back pocket just in case. As our Jewish mother likes to say to us, “What will it hurt?”

So That’s It, Huh. I Don’t Really Have a Choice, Do I?

Not if you value your education and hope to live in a house someday, no. We don’t want to generalize, of course - some of you may be really hard up and already set on a college that has no SAT requirement, and it would be tough for you to swing the exam fees. We get that. Maybe your dad has already promised you ownership and management of the family restaurant once you graduate. Understood. There are surprisingly few questions on the SAT with regard to the proper internal cooking temperature of shellfish, so much of it may not be of that much help to you in your new endeavor. (Although, in this example, a restaurant manager needs nothing if not math and communication skills, so you’d probably really be missing out.)

But for the rest of you, the SAT is as necessary a step as your first day of kindergarten or your first playground wedgie. It isn’t necessarily fun, but it can lead to a whole lot of financial stability and security later in your life, which - believe it or not - is someday going to seem like a whole boatload of fun. Today’s Call of Duty is tomorrow’s 401k. Trust us - we know this stuff.

Good luck on that test, young lads and lassies - may the Shmoop be with you. (And also with you.)

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