Editorial: SAT inadequate representation of individual talent

It’s unnerving to think that the four hours you spent filling in bubbles with a No. 2 pencil was a vital determining factor in where you are today. 

Whether you’re currently studying at a university or not, after graduating high school, the score you received on the SATs partially defined you as a person. Colleges used this numerical value to decide whether or not you were worthy of studying at their institution. As represented by the U.S. News and World Report College ranking list, the best universities only admit the best standardized test takers. And, as it turns out, employers are unfortunately using this same, superficial system when it comes to hiring.

Even though many colleges and universities have started to question the value of the test itself, and some have even opted out of requiring applicants to take the test — thus, removing the pressure from high school students who must prepare vigorously for a small, four-hour chunk of their lives — the anxieties that come with the SAT are still omnipresent. Not as much for those who are applying to college, but apparently, for those who are applying for a job. Employers still ask job applicants for their SAT scores even though it has most likely been years since they took the test. The employers then use these test scores to filter out applicants in the interview process, choosing those with higher scores over those with lower scores. 

“They’re most valuable early in the process because we get tens of thousands of applications, and we don’t interview tens of thousands of people,” Jennifer Comparoni, head of recruiting in the Americas at the Boston Consulting group, said in defense of the practice in a New York Times article written by Shaila Dewan. 

Although this might seem like a logical solution for employers initially, it judges potential employees unfairly. The SATs offer a narrow, one-size-fits-all judgment of one’s skills. While an SAT score might be able to inform the employer of an applicant’s critical reading skills, it cannot determine one’s leadership or communication skills. 

Furthermore, a filtration method such as this has the potential to create a very unpredictable workforce, simply because applicants would be judged on three very broad categories: math, reading and writing. Specific skills that are otherwise essential for a particular job are then overlooked. 

Therefore, although it might be impressive for a company such as Goldman Sachs to hire applicants who all consistently scored above the 95th percentile on the test, it is unfavorable for those applicants who have worked on honing skills particular to the job. 

Instead, employers should sift through applicants using a system that highlights specific skill sets, such as leadership and communication skills. An applicant’s experiences with internships or extracurriculars could demonstrate these skills, shifting the focus away from a test he or she took years ago and moving it toward a more recent and more personal judgment of character. 

As Jonathan Wai, a research scientist at the Duke University Talent Identification Program, stated in the same New York Times article regarding how well the SATs can differentiate among applicants, “It’s like using a six-foot ruler to measure a 6-foot-7 basketball player.” The test simply cannot highlight those extraordinary qualities found in potential employees.