Your SAT and ACT scores could make a difference in your job future

BY Zachary Treu  February 26, 2014 at 5:42 PM EST

Blowing a Saturday morning to slog through the SAT isn’t a fond high school memory for any of us — and now some researchers suggest that our results may not be a useful indicator of future success after all. It turns out, however, that a nice score may end up paying dividends even after college graduation.

Last week, the NewsHour spoke with former Bates College dean of admissions William Hiss about a study he led that questioned the effectiveness of a student’s standardized test scores in predicting collegiate success. Bates and other schools across the country have made these tests optional, and Hiss argued that the larger application pool that comes from the de-emphasis of the SAT and ACT makes for “a better class” of students.

“If students have strong high school records, good grades in high school, their odds of doing [well] in college are very good even with a quite wide range of testing,” Hiss said.

According to his study, the difference in graduation rates between students who do and do not submit their test scores in the application process is six-tenths of one percent.

But even if standardized tests are becoming less meaningful to universities, they haven’t stopped being a factor after graduation. Some employers ask applicants for their scores on the SAT and ACT — even if the potential interviewee is years out of college.

“When you’re hiring people and they don’t have a lot of work experience, you have to start with some set of data points,” Eric Eden of Cvent, a Virginia-based software company, told The Wall Street Journal. Eden’s company hasn’t looked into whether their top employees also had the highest scores — but “knowing it’s a standardized test is really enough for us,” he said.

The format of the SAT changed in March 2005 when the test added a third section — a writing test — and increasing the highest possible score from 1600 to 2400. But even before the data became more comprehensive, companies were still looking at the scores. More than a decade ago, the WSJ published a similar article with the same bent.

“In my experience, people with high SAT scores tend to do better,” Alan Sage, the vice president of a Colorado software company, told the Journal then.

So, high school seniors: Get lots of rest, sharpen your no. 2 pencils and make sure your calculator has batteries. It might be a pain at age 17 — but it might mean everything at age 22.

For more on the subject of subject tests, watch Ray Suarez’s 2012 interview with two experts about falling average scores on the SAT.