Why do we test? Like why even do it? Did they test in Eden? If you shook the tree and 20 apples fell out of 100 total, did the percentages matter? Well, maybe if you were the snake’s kin on the ground…
For better or worse, we live in a competitive world and winning matters. The cover of Sports Illustrated rarely fets JoeBobBilly for coming in 7th – but having tried REALLY hard. Winners are carried out on our shoulders; losers fade to black oblivion. Welcome to America.
Unless you are a budding young world class athlete or musician, the SAT / ACT dance-of-knives is the first big-time high-pressure competition you will enter. We’d love to tell you to “relax” and “breathe” and that “everything’s gonna be all right, yes it is”.
But we’re not your gramma and we don’t think everything you do is just AWESOME. Our goal is not to be nice. Our goal is to be honest.
If you want nice, there’s always an apple pie in the oven at the asking at Gramma’s. (And we love our grammas around here so lest you not thing we are denigrating gramma – we just think she’d be the first to tell you that she has no clue about how “The American System” works from a competitive academic perspective.)
So the SAT / ACT matters. A lot. Of the roughly 2 million of you who will take it each year, based on our complex (and proprietary) algorithms at Shmoop, we predict that roughly only 200,000 of you will score in the top 10%.
The rest of you will score below that number.
And if score below the top 10%, your choices of college narrow.
Question: Do you the pretty girls generally get elected Homecoming Queen or to the cheerleader squad in your high school? Yeah? Why. Really, why? Are the pretty girls better dancers? Better leaders? Better… queens? (What does that mean anyway?) So… why? Why are they elected?
Answer: Because that’s how it works. That’s just our system. Don’t like it? Great. Change it. But for now, that’s how it works. Period.
So why do you have to score well on the SAT / ACT? Same reason you’d better be pretty if you want to be elected Homecoming Queen.
The SAT / ACT testing system evolved for good reason: Schools grade differently. Some rarely give Bs. (Read: B.S.) Others grade on a formal Bell Curve so that the middlin’ students get Cs. And only the top sigma get As even if half the class has been oh just awesome.
Other kids are late bloomers or so smart that school bores them. Einstein stunk in school. If you are getting Cs now and contemplating new theories of relativitiy, then you’d better hope to show that you have real game by posting a 2300+.
In theory, SAT / ACT scores correlate with how well you’ll likely do in the given college to which you are applying. In practice, there hasn’t been any really good data to prove that the correlation exists in a meaningful way. Lots of people who have lesser horse power simply work harder and make up for it. College admissions is a composite of things - SAT / ACT scores being one important part. But just one.
The SAT and ACT are standardized tests aim to even out the playing field and help colleges compare diversely graded students across the country and across the world.
How do you know if a student is …smart? How do you compare students who were graded in entirely different ways? You have them take a common test. How “common” or relevant the questions are is a topic open to debate.
Shmoop can help you conquer the SAT / ACT. Check us out.