The Importance of SAT Scores

The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is the exam most commonly used in the college admissions process. Read on to learn more about the importance of SAT scores.

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Each year thousands of high school students armed with sharpened #2 pencils and scientific calculators prepare to take the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), formerly the Scholastic Aptitude Test. The SAT, which requires just under 4 hours to complete, is often required of college-bound students. While the Princeton Review, www.review.com, notes that the American College Test (ACT) is becoming a recognized alternative, the SAT is still much more widely accepted.

The SAT tests a student in three major areas: math, reading comprehension and writing. While former test-takers were once required to struggle through analogies and quantitative comparisons, the 'new' SAT, which debuted in March of 2005, has done away with them in favor of a brief essay and higher math problems. Because some students fair better in some areas over others, it is not uncommon to begin preparing for the SAT weeks, months, or even years in advance. There are a number of SAT preparation programs and workbooks available to assist in the studying process.

While performing well in the SAT may help a student secure admissions to their dream college, the score is rarely the deciding factor. Admissions counselors often evaluate students by weighing a number of different criteria, such as overall grade point average (GPA), difficulty of classes taken, participation in sports or other extracurricular activities and leadership skills. A student who doesn't perform well on the SAT may still be accepted by a particular institution if they shine in these other areas. Conversely, a student who performs well on the SAT but does not make an impression in these other areas may find their application declined.

Some colleges are more competitive than others. Ivy League schools in particular require applicants to excel in all areas. Harvard, for instance, often receives more valedictorian applications each year than there are openings. Often an outstanding SAT score gives one the edge over the competition in these highly-selective institutions. It is not unheard of for these schools to require a minimum SAT score of potential applicants, regardless of their overall scholastic performance.

It is often difficult to determine how important the SAT score will be in the college admissions process. A truly great score may give a student a competitive edge over other applicants, regardless of the institution. The difficulty of students' courses and the activities available to them vary, after all. A standardized test in which all students are expected to answer the same questions places all students on a level playing field. While a poor SAT score may not be a collegiate deal-breaker, you should always do your best when taking this exam. Studying well in advance, making a point to eat healthy and get sufficient sleep and working to alleviate any test-taking anxiety may do wonders in improving your overall SAT score.

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