What skills does SAT measure?

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The SAT is an international college admission test that allows the college to know what knowledge a student has and how the student applies that knowledge.  The SAT tests the reading, writing and arithmetic knowledge a student has.  For this reason, most students sit for the SAT during their junior or senior year in high school. The SAT is a tool that most colleges and university use in selection of students to admit.

Thus, the SAT is important for any student who intends to further his or her studies in college or university. However, there have been controversies about the exact skills that SAT measures. There have been arguments that the SAT is unfair and does not reflect the abilities of the student. Other people claim that it is more of a psychometric test and measure the abilities and personality of an individual. While yet other people claim that the SAT results are good at telling how a student will fair in college education. With all these arguments, one cannot outline the skills that the SAT measures without analyzing the SAT subjects and what exams on these subjects assess.

One thing that is for sure is that the SAT does not measure logical or abstract reasoning. It measures the skills that students gain from their high school studies.  SAT test three major skills namely reading, writing and math. In order to answer the question on “What skills does the SAT measure?”, one has to look at the skills that one gains from reading, writing and mathematics.

Skills relating to reading

In order to complete the SAT test, students are required to read comprehensions and later answer questions derived from the comprehension.  In addition, students are required to fill in gaps in sentences with the most correct words without altering the meaning of the sentence.

For this reason, the SAT tests communication skills.  It tests whether a student can communicate through the written language. Only if one understands a written comprehension can he or she answer questions relating to the passage correctly. If a student fails to answer correctly, it points to the fact that they did not understand. Thus, the SAT tests whether a student can communicate effectively through reading and writing.

Skills relating to Writing

In the SAT test, the student is required to write an essay. In addition, the student has to answer a couple of multiple-choice questions that test on grammar and spellings. One is required to identify the mistakes in sentences that are almost similar, but have minor differences that make one correct and the others wrong.

Writing, therefore, seems to test the proficiency of a student in the English language. It also tests the written communication skills of the candidate. Some students are good at speaking the English language but are very poor when writing in the same language. The essay also tests whether a student can place ideas in a logical and flowing manner. Some people do not know where to begin when writing; by convention, the most important issues should come first, and the least important should come last. The way that a person begins an essay and ends an essay is also crucial. Thus, the essay part of the SAT test tests organizational skills as well.

Skills relating to Mathematics

The SAT mathematics test has probability questions, statistics, algebra, geometry, and arithmetic operations.  Thus, the questions test a whole range of skills. For example, geometry is a measure of attention to detail as well as precision. A student must measure the exact degrees in order to get a correct answer. Algebra on the other hand stimulates the students thinking in relation to making substitutions. Thus, it enables a student to become a problem solver, to relate one issue to another and find a solution that applies to the problem. Statistics, on the other hand, measures whether a student knows about the data gathering process, data representation and data interpretation. Is the student capable of reading graphs and pie charts correctly? Is he or she capable of using data to predict what might happen in the future if one or more factors change?

Thus, mathematics in the SAT test for the problem solving skills, attention to detail, interpretation skills and ability to understand how different factors relate to each other.

Skills relating to Time

Examinees are required to complete the SAT test within a specific time. If a student does not manage the time allocated to each question properly, a student may end up failing the test not because they did not know the correct answers, but because they did not complete the test. The complexity of the questions is also different. Some questions are simple while others are tricky and difficult. The student who begins with the simple tasks is likely to fare better than one who starts with the difficult questions should both students fail to complete the test.

Thus, the SAT tests the ability of a student to prioritize as well as the ability of the student to manage time. Time management and ability to prioritize are important skills in life and most employers tend to look for people with these skills.

Initially, the design of the SAT test made it a suitable tool of predicting success of students in college. However, the test seems to measure more than the skills taught at school; it seems to measure the general intelligence of students. Scores on SAT tests highly correlate with those of standardized intelligence tests such as an IQ test. It is noteworthy that in some cases, some students fail the SAT but proceed to college and graduate with first-class honors. Others pass the SAT only to graduate with a pass. For this reason, there is no consensus on the skills that SAT test measures.


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