Despite criticisms, many Americans continue to regard the SAT as an accurate assessment of intelligence.
But according to a recent study conducted by the University of California, scores on the SAT II subject tests are better indicators of how freshmen will perform in college than traditional SAT I scores.
Although reliance on the SAT has come under public scrutiny, most American colleges and universities, including Yale, require some form of standardized testing as part of their application process. The SAT I is the most commonly required test, and some colleges and universities also require SAT II scores.
Yale Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw said the SATs are useful as a universal measure of how a large group of students compare.
“If we have available national standardized tests, which are a uniformed measure of the nation and the world really, we are going to use them.”
Yale also requires SAT II scores from each candidate, and all scores are weighed equally with other parts of an application, Shaw said.
“[SAT IIs are a] very good and specific indicator of comprehensive knowledge in a subject matter,” Shaw said.
Columbia University also requires SAT II scores, said Karen Sagall, a student assistant in the Columbia admissions office.
“They test different skills. The SAT IIs are a little harder because they test specific subjects,” she said.
But few schools have conducted any studies equating SAT scores with performance upon matriculation.
Indiana University Admissions Specialist Marni Bassichis said most schools, including Indiana, do not require SAT II scores for admission but take them into consideration for course placement.
“It’s once you are at Indiana that they become relevant, not in admissions,” she said.
Bassichis said SATs are “the least important criteria as to what we consider for admissions [because] there are some students that are just not good test takers.”
The University of California study operated under the assumption that admissions offices used SAT scores to gauge how a candidate would perform in college. But Shaw said Yale simply uses SAT scores to get a fuller perspective on the student.