It’s no secret that high schools in the United States place a lot of weight on the SAT and ACT. It only makes sense to assume they’re essentially intelligence tests that measure a student’s fitness for higher education—But they’re not.
A low score on these tests doesn’t mean someone isn’t smart, and a high score doesn’t mean they’re MENSA material. In fact, there’s no consensus on what “intelligence” actually is. Someone could be great at writing but weak in math, or a brilliant logician but a terrible people-person. It’s just too subjective, and that makes it hard to meaningfully measure with a test.
Standardized tests are important not because they measure intelligence, but because they serve as a metric by which colleges can compare their many applicants. Grade point averages can be influenced by a lot of different variables between schools, so they’re not a very reliable metric. By contrast, the SAT and ACT test student’s grasp of the basics they’ll need for college in the exact same way every time, everywhere.
It’s far from a perfect system, and it definitely doesn’t show the full scope of a student’s achievement. College admissions officers know that, though, and that’s why students should round out their application with a high GPA, extracurriculars and a strong essay. Standardized tests don’t measure intelligence—they’re just one of many ways for students to show what they’ve learned.