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Why your SAT score is not a measure of your intelligence

As a newcomer to Quora, I am very much enjoying reading the questions that students post about the college admissions process. Today, I came across this question on Quora about the SAT and intelligence:

How do I get over the feeling that my SAT score represents how smart I am?

Several answers give reasons as to why the SAT doesn’t measure intelligence. But so far no answer explains – assumin you already know that it doesn’t measure your intelligence – how you can get over that feeling. So that’s what I’m going to answer with this post.

First of all, I do think it is a good idea to be clear about what the SAT does measure.

A good SAT score really means…
  1. You’re a good test-taker.
    You don’t suffer from test anxiety. Time pressures don’t bother you. Your #2 pencil never gets dull and four hours in a cold classroom ain’t no thang.
  2. You’ve *cracked* the exam.
    You have the money, time, and energy to hire a tutor, take multiple practice exams, and/or take the real thing several times.
  3. Your teachers knew what was coming.
    At some schools, the teachers are very aware of what the SAT tests for and help you prepare without you even knowing it. While the SAT is supposed to test topics that all high schools teach their students, we all know that some teachers are better than others… and some curriculums are more thorough than others.
The SAT does not measure…
  1. How well you did in high school.
    That would be your GPA and teacher recommendations, if you’re thinking about class work. Of course, how “well” we do in something is even bigger than class work. Did you make friends? Were you happy? Did your soccer team win the tournament?
  2. Your intelligence.
    Nothing can really measure intelligence, because there are multiple types of intelligence. Even an IQ test only measures cognitive problem-solving skills, which is just one type of intelligence.

Okay. But let’s say you already know all of this. Here’s the real question:

How do you get over the feeling that your intelligence is being judged?

1. Identify why you feel that way.

Are your peers comparing SAT scores and joking about how smart/stupid people are? Maybe it’s your parents. Or even your teachers.

If that’s the case, it might be helpful to keep your SAT scores to yourself. And walk away from conversations where people are comparing scores.

2. Ask yourself how important an SAT score really is for you.

Getting a bad SAT score can make you feel bad about yourself. But it’s not going to stop you from going to college, being a successful individual, or making a ton of money.

If your score truly isn’t up to par, seek out colleges that don’t care so much about the SAT. There are over 880 accredited schools in the US that do not use the SAT or ACT to admit students. See a list of them here.

3. Recognize in what ways you are intelligent.

Back to my comment on how there are multiple intelligences. Here they are:

1. Naturalist
2. Musical
3. Logical-Mathematical
4. Existential
5. Interpersonal
6. Bodily-kinesthetic
7. Linguistic
8. Inta-personal
9. Spatial

Ask yourself– how well would I do on the SAT if it tested my ability to sing on key? Or run a marathon?

How well would my peers do if it tested their ability to empathize with others? Or make sculptures out of clay?

The next time someone makes you feel judged for your SAT score, tell them the following:

  • My SAT score isn’t really important because my skills are…

And then change the subject.

4. Understand that people will always try to make you feel like your intelligence is being judged.

Whether you are taking the SAT or applying for a job, society is great at judging. Even if you make a perfect SAT score now, you’ll still find people who treat you as less intelligent later on in life.

I taught kindergarten for a short time, and even my kindergarten students would label each other as smart or stupid based on their ability to remember words like “frog” and “playground” in a foreign language. [English, as it turned out. I was teaching in Turkey.]

The only remedy that will make you truly feel better is to recognize your own intelligence, qualities and personal beauty. When you focus on that, nobody will ever be able to tear you down.

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