You're a top student in your class -- does that mean you can skip SAT prep because your GPA will carry you? Or you're just average in the class, does that mean you can't do well on the SAT?
It turns out, that the college board admits themselves that SAT score is not highly related to your high school GPA. In statistical speak, high school GPAs predict less than 30% of the variation on SAT scores. Through my own experience and numerous students I work with, this is actually not surprising at all. Why is this the case?
1. The SAT is standardized. First, the SAT scores are standardized. This means that it doesn't matter if you're from Manhattan, New York, or rural northern Mississippi, the test is the same. If you have the same skill, you'll do equally on the SAT. Not so for your GPA: if you go to a less challenging high school, you'll have a higher GPA, and if you go to a top school like Stuyvesant, you'll get a much lower GPA. In other words, GPA compares you within that school, SAT compares you across the nation.
2. The SAT Doesn't Measure Many Classroom Factors. The SAT can't tell that you're a great team player, follow the teacher's instructions, or that you're a nice kid, all of which do go into your GPA in general. Getting good grades in school is a skill that you've spent years honing and perfecting. Most of these skills don't translate to the SAT. To prepare for the SAT you'll need to, in some ways, start from square one. Preparation is key to getting ahead again.
3. The SAT Strongly Measures Analytic Test Taking Skills. Whereas schools measure your ability to be creative in essays and thoughtful in your work, the SAT measures your abiluty to guess efficient, spent time correctly, and think logically and mechanically. These skills need to be practiced for the test.
Long story short, academic achievement doesn't solely determine your SAT score. If you've done well in school, you want to keep up the good work and not tarnish your chances. To do this you'll need to start learning SAT skills soon. If you haven't done well in school, this is your second chance, your shot to show the world that you still have it in you. Because the situation is different, you can have a fresh start in acing the SAT.
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Fred is co-founder of PrepScholar. He scored a perfect score on the SAT and is passionate about sharing information with aspiring students. Fred graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor's in Mathematics and a PhD in Economics.