One question that is often asked regarding the SAT, is how well it measures a person’s overall IQ.
The truth isn’t that cut and dry, despite the popular opinion that a high SAT score automatically equals high student intelligence. Let’s break down the fallacy and discuss what IQ and SAT scores actually measure.
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IQ In A Nutshell
IQ, short for ‘intelligence quotient’, is confusing for many people to understand because it is not clearly defined for them.
Most experts when discussing IQ refer to it as a specific score derived from a number of different standardized tests. These tests measure attributes including logic usage, verbal reasoning, spatial awareness, visual ability, etc.
Here are a few of the most common IQ tests out there for reference:
- Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
- Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
- Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales
- Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities
- Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children
- Cognitive Assessment System, Differential Ability Scales
As one can see from the wide variety of available tests, IQ is not a simple measure but rather a fluid concept open to interpretation. Because of this looseness, IQ, unfortunately, has been used as a means of discrimination in the past. Moreover, it is often criticized as being sometimes too narrow of a measure by not including other variables like creativity and emotional intelligence.
To cut down the confusion, we will refer to IQ as a person’s ability to figure out specific problems based on given information. In short, IQ is a measurement that is supposed to indicate how skillful you are as both a problem solver and overall thinker. The concept ‘given information’ though will become very important to think about soon.
What The SAT Tests
Let’s take a step back then and now shift focus to the SAT’s testing and purpose.
The SAT’s purpose is to test students’ readiness for college-level work. When boiled down to its essence, that’s what the test is designed to do. The Reading, Writing & Language, Math, and Essay sections are all calibrated to evaluate how ready you are for college courses.
More importantly, after the recent Common Core-inspired updates, the test also helps evaluate career readiness after college. What you have learned and how to apply those skills and knowledge is what’s most important.
SAT VS IQ Measurements
Here’s now where we need to start making clear distinctions between what the SAT measures and what IQ measures.
The SAT is concerned with examining and quantifying your learned information, meaning all the facts, concepts, and skills that you have acquired over the course of your education up to that point. Because the test is concerned with your college and career readiness, what you already know is most important.
IQ is a means to quantify your ability to solve problems and think based on information that is provided to you at the moment. This is an important point to remember: you can’t “study” for IQ tests because they aren’t interested in testing what you already know or prepared for previously. They want to know what you can do at the moment given the least amount of information in real time.
The SAT, on the other hand, will present problems and situations that require you to call upon the information you should already have inside your head. This means that you can, and should, prepare for the test ahead of time because it requires you to recall information in order to complete its different sections.
While the difference appears minimal at first, IQ and the SAT are concerned with fundamentally different things. A person with a high IQ may be able to identify a missing number within a sequence by figuring out the presented pattern but may do horribly on an algebra question because they can’t recall the necessary formula to solve it.
This distinction is not meant to imply that the SAT ignores IQ altogether; solving complex problems and using reasoning skills does fall into the realm of what IQ measures. However, because of the innate differences between given information and learned information, it is ill-advised to base a person’s IQ upon their SAT score alone.
SAT Vs IQ: Shaan Patel
A clear example of not basing IQ on SAT scores alone comes from Prep Expert’s founder Shaan Patel.
Shaan was a regular student who attended public school, hung out with friends, and lived a pretty standard childhood. On his first practice SAT, he scored 1760 back when the test was graded on a 2400 point scale.
At first glance, that is not an amazing score and let Shaan’s intelligence be misconstrued based on that four-digit number alone. What did he do then? He went back to the drawing board, studied hard, examined what he had problems with, and scored a perfect 2400 on the actual SAT.
What does this example prove? It proves clearly that the SAT is not a definitive test for intelligence, it is a definitive test for…what the SAT tests. Getting a high score on the SAT means two things: 1) You have learned and retained a wealth of information from primary through high school and 2) You studied hard and prepared for the SAT.
If the test was a measure of pure intelligence, then Shaan’s efforts to improve on the test would not have resulted in such a dramatic score increase. Shaan’s case proves that it is important to not let your sense of worth and intelligence be defined by your SAT score. If you don’t succeed at first, simply try again and work harder to improve your weak spots.
At Prep Expert, we believe that every student has the chance to define their academic and professional futures by not letting the SAT or ACT intimidate them. Shaan himself didn’t let an initial weak score hold him back. Rather than thinking that score meant he wasn’t intelligent enough to do well, he instead refocused his efforts and found success because of it.
His perfect 2400 score opened many doors for him including a full ride scholarship, an Ivy League education, and eventually the means to start his own business and help students around the world achieve their dreams too.
How Prep Expert Helps
Focused test prep, like what Prep Expert offers, will help you identify the information you need to have, figure out your strengths and weaknesses on the SAT, and provide plenty of practice to sharpen you before test day.
If you haven’t done so already, take a moment to check out what we have to offer regarding SAT prep and don’t sweat how your IQ plays into things. You aren’t taking a test for general intelligence, you’re taking a test on specific subjects you can prepare for thoroughly.
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SAT To IQ FAQ
What does IQ actually mean?
IQ, short for ‘intelligence quotient’, commonly refers to a specific score derived from a number of different standardized tests. These tests measure attributes including logic usage, verbal reasoning, spatial awareness, visual ability, etc.
What does the SAT tests students for normally?
The SAT is concerned with examining and quantifying your learned information, meaning all the facts, concepts, and skills that you have acquired over the course of your education up to that point.
What are IQ tests trying to find out?
IQ tests quantify your ability to solve problems and think based on information that is provided to you at the moment.
Can the SAT accurately measure IQ then?
In short, no. The SAT tests your ability to recall and use previously learned information. IQ tests measure your abilities to handle problems in that moment with no preparation beforehand. In short, you can’t study for an IQ test but you can study for the SAT.