Are SATs the best measure of achievement?

The quickly approaching SATs are perhaps the most dreaded academic requirement a high school student must face.
The SAT tests students’ knowledge in three key areas: mathematics, writing and reading comprehension. The test is a grueling four hours long, and it’s the most commonly referred to standardized test when it comes to applying for colleges across the United States.
The SAT itself is really a mythical figure, that ever-looming threat that begins to follow you from the moment you set foot in high school, if not earlier. It’s one of the most important, not to mention scariest, academic dragons that must be slain, and the victims are armed with only a calculator and No. 2 pencil.
“I think the SATs are really important,” said Paige Craven, a sophomore at Souhegan High School. “They’re your one chance to get into a good college.” But many people have begun to wonder how accurately an SAT score really represents a student and how heavily colleges really rely on them.
The value of the SAT has been called into question many times because of its unreliability. Students have been known to receive scores hundred of points lower or higher than their actual results because of faulty scanning.
In one incident in 2006, more than 1,000 students were told that their scores were incorrect. Some students were informed that they had received up to 400 points fewer than they deserved.
Then, there’s the issue that affects all standardized tests: all of the daily variables that can affect your scores.
“The SATs are really just a judge of how you were feeling that day,” junior Athena Kochilaris said.
So, how important are they really? The answer isn’t that simple.
“It depends on the college,” guidance director Karen Chininis said, “because each one has a different set of requirements and set of values.” Additionally, many schools have begun to adopt other standardized tests or even drop them altogether.
But with all of the SAT hype, other key areas are sometimes overlooked. Colleges still rely on letters of recommendation, essays and, of course, grades earned throughout high school.
“I think that the student academic record is the most important thing,” Chininis said.
In the end, it seems as if everyone is divided over SATs.
On the one hand, they’re subject to many variables, including individual test-taking skills or different personal circumstances.
But on the other, as Chininis said, “SATs (are a) common assessment. An English course may be more rigorous in one school than another; SATs are the same for everyone.” So, for now, your best bet is to research your college of choice, find your strengths and make sure every aspect of your application is up to par; just keep in mind that your SAT score isn’t your only shot.
Amy Butenhof is a student at Souhegan High School in Amherst.