Do Higher Standardized Test Scores on SAT and GMAT Indicate Higher Ability or Intelligence?

Recently been speaking with recruiters for PE. One call this afternoon went really well until I was asked for my SAT and GMAT score. I was surprised by this and quietly mumbled “uh, well, it’s uh .. 1390” ..

I understand every other kid in IB has 1500+. The only reason my score was not as good relative to others is because I was recruited for athletics in the beginning of my junior year of hs shortly after taking the exam, so unlike everyone else in my grade, I did not re-take the exam several times to optimize for the highest score. I spent most my time and efforts in hs on athletics rather than academics. Despite my low score, I attended a T20 school, graduated with a good gpa and work at an EB

But I wonder, given that the top universities typically only take kids with high scores, and how some of the top buyside firms consider exam scores in their recruiting screens, do higher exam scores indicate higher intelligence? 


I would say in general, and I know there are a lot of exceptions, higher scores tend to indicate higher book smarts to a degree. The assumption is that most students do spend a considerable amount of time, easily over several months, studying for these exams.

In a hypothetical scenario, say you are a VP and had the option to either hire a class of 10 analysts who each have a 1500+, or 10 analysts who each have a 1200, which group would you hire as your team assuming they’re all similar in other areas and came from the same T20 school? 


In a hypothetical scenario, say you are a VP and had the option to either hire a class of 10 analysts who each have a 1500+, or 10 analysts who each have a 1200, which group would you hire as your team assuming they’re all similar in other areas and came from the same T20 school? 

This is a great point


Not so great when a hypotetical example is hardly found in practice.

Even candidates that come from the same school and similar internships still have differences that are unique and relevant in their own way, either life perspective, hobbies, extracurriculars, past accomplishments, foreign langauges, communication style, etc. etc. I mean there's absolutely 0 difference between having a 1500 SAT guy sitting on Excel and a 1200 one.

I may prioritize a diverse team in the sense that I may take 5 1500 SAT guys (assumption here that they're book worms) that may bring some intelligent ideas or recommendations or observations and 5 1200 SAT guys that may have some random life occurences (been in the army, backpacked all LatAm, etc. etc.).

Both are important in their own ways into a team, one for the work per se and the other ones for culture/relationships both internal and external. In reality, a team of 10 guys with a 1000 SAT will do the same work as a 1500 SAT considering the monotony of our jobs, so what one should look is at how certain candidates may have an impact in the company outside their day to day work.


I would still take 8/10 of 1500 people because I know they can (i) put hours, (ii) learn things and (iii) just stay motivated even if doing boring things. It actually does not mean that 1500 person is smarter than 1200 but it helps me to gauge motivation and just ability to deal with mundane tasks everyday. Working on boring simple things is super under-appreciated both in IBD and PE.

Of course, I usually look at GPA and SAT / ACT scores and if they are below ask why. I believe it is very useful to also understand how you deal with pressure and life in general. In my final high school year - few months before the exams - I lost my brother in a tragic accident and ended up loosing 3 weeks of classes because it took me a while to snap out of it. Still by time of the final exams I was half there and overslept for two out of 28 sessions. Still I graduated valedictorian and got 44/45 on my IB exams. I used this example in early IBD recruiting days (as an analyst) and many people were both impressed and emphatic .

If scores would be sufficient as an indicator of your all skills - none would have to conduct interviews.

TL;DR learn to tell your story in honest way, and own it


No nice way of laying this out there, but definitely the 1500+ cohort, not because they're necessarily smarter as many have noted, but because they will most definitely be better for your personal network by virtue of highly likely coming from better (wealthier) backgrounds.


I think students who have high standardized test scores are just really good at taking exams. This may be somewhat indicative of intelligence but there’s other ways to measure intelligence that are not based on taking tests, which we rarely do in a real world work setting anyways.

Same with GPA. Some people have a high GPA because they can memorize a lot of stuff and retain it to answer questions on an exams, then forget the majority of what read and not know how to apply it to real life - it doesn’t indicate much of anything at all about anyone’s intelligence or ability


high scores don't indicate intelligence but low scores can indicate lack of intelligence


high scores don't indicate intelligence but low scores can indicate lack of intelligence

I see it as the other way around: high scores indicate high intelligence, but relatively lower scores don’t always indicate low intelligence (to an extent)

On the extreme ends, students with under a 900 probably aren’t smart or just really do not care about going to college, but students with 1600 are usually close to geniuses. Not always clear for a lot of the people in between, which is where most people are 


IMO a high test score at best represents average+ intelligence. The only point of contention is whether it takes you 1 month or 2 years of studying. 

Most people just don't put in an honest effort. 

Are you sitting there doing the practice questions and getting better at it. At some point you've essentially seen every possible permutation of the kind of questions you're going to get. 

I got a 36 act and I'm nowhere near the most intelligent guy on campus and I have a higher score than pretty much everyone.

The same with GPA. I think anyone can get a high GPA, and that it's meaningless as a measure of intelligence, but more so did you even want to get a high GPA.


Does anyone know how candidates who didn't take the SAT would be viewed given the rise of test-optional/test-blind admission processes? 

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I’m sorry, but the “testing doesn’t say how smart I am” narrative is just such a participation trophy type of rationalization.

From the reading side, the sat/act is often testing whether you have reading comprehension skills. It’s pretty relevant to your ability to process English whether or not you can read quickly and understand things.

On the math side, again, it’s often testing how quickly you can correctly problem solve basic problems.

I don’t know how you want to define “smart”, but I think processing speed is a pretty efficient way to do it. I can’t think of a better metric to be honest than standardized tests. The key reason being, they are standardized. Grades could float based on the difficulty of classes and schools, but what you got on the sat/act/gre/gmat is relatable to all others who took those tests.

Now, that said, correlation isn’t causation. There’s loads of reasons why people might underperform or over perform. Test day, luck, stage of development, amount of retakes, tutoring, etc.

Further, when you start getting into the extremes, we need to be honest about the scoring of those exams. Someone missing 1 additional question is probably a stupid threshold to decide someone is “smarter” than another person. I think realistically, the way the exams are scored, 96th percentile and above should be viewed pretty interchangeably. 32-36 acts are kinda the same, 1450-1600 sats are kinda the same. Think it’s especially useless to delineate between “perfect scores” and someone getting a notch below. A 36/35 or 1550 and 1600 are due to luck of the test frankly.

Finally, I think something I wish I knew when I was younger, processing power is overrated. There are very few jobs where I would take “a perfect test score person” over someone with a decade of experience in that role. Getting a high SAT night help determine who is the fastest at solving a math problem, but it doesn’t say shit about whether someone can manage or sell or have common/good business sense. 

In summary, yeah, I think standardized tests are pretty good ways of understanding who is a fast processor. If you struggle with feeling you are discriminated against because of it, take another exam, or sell yourself better. If your story is legit that the test was a fluke/ really low because you didn’t retake, it should be an easy point to sell yourself out of.

  • What was your act score?
  • ”Ah, my favorite question. I took it once, had no tutoring, and got ____. With my athletic background, I knew that was the score I needed to go to ___, so I wasn’t really that motivated to improve it. Honestly, had I known I’d get asked in interviews a decade later, I might have studied to improve it. That said, I know my GRE/GMAT is the 99th percentile. Think that’s a better measurement of my ability.”
  • Or, “I set the curve for blank, blank, and blank classes which are the hardest courses at my school, so I’d encourage you guys to look past that result.

When I interview, I always ask for standardized test score. It’s a proxy for standardized processing power. I have hired people with low scores, but they always have very legitimate not-BS reasons for their low score and evidence that it was a fluke. I’m talking things like, “I had a major health event my junior year which hurt my score, but won the national math Olympiad in college.”  More often however, the low score is just a person that is genuinely slower at processing, which is a piece, but not the whole purpose of my interviewing them. I’ve rejected a lot of no-personality perfect grade test score people as well.


But don’t forget, a ton of kids today get extra time (their parents try to game system). They have no qualms being short bus kids (sometimes they geniunely are, tbf). I knew a dude who got to take the test over two days, with as much time as he wanted each day, in a separate quiet room, because he had ‘performance anxiety’. Not hard to get a top score at that point because as you say, the whole point is its timed and is about processing speed.


This is a great response. As rigorous as these test scores "are", they are still only one data point and don't display a real trend.  

Give me 2 candidates both with top GMAT scores one scored that on their first go and the other took a year to get there from a subpar starting point. I want the person who took the year to get there. 

There is a lot more to intelligence than sheer processing power and pattern recognition as the poster above has illustrated such as EQ, SQ, grit, resilience, etc, and in this industry from my experience, you need to score HIGHER in the other categories to succeed over the long run.  


Unless you got a perfect or near perfect score who the hell remembers what they got on the SAT/ACT?

Same logic applies for HS GPA and I genuinely don’t know how I would even get those records if asked. I’m in my late 20’s and would venture to guess the HS would only be able to confirm my attendance. Any record of my grades as a student or test scores are probably long gone. I could probably ballpark my performance with a reasonable degree of accuracy in terms of my percentile but couldn’t give you a concrete score.

I’d argue that anyone that mentions in conversations or remembers their HS GPA and SAT/ACT scores precisely once they graduate from HS is not a fun person to be around. I could understand someone that’s a freshman in college remembering if asked given how recently they applied to college but even that to me is a yellow flag. Went to a flagship state school where I encountered these types of people and the only ones I came across that would remember this kind of stuff once in college made their whole personality that they were accepted to Stanford/Harvard/Princeton but had to go to our school because they couldn’t afford the loans. The funniest part was that none of these kids were ever near the smartest person in any of our classes and really average students. One kid even kept his Stanford acceptance letter to show people who would make fun of him.

Professionally, I view that mindset similarly to these losers on LinkedIn who put ex-Google, ex- McKinsey, ex - Goldman etc. to flex. Instead of trying to develop as a professional or human being these people would choose to focus on clout instead of driving value. They can’t believe that they’re only a manager at this other company given how prestigious their last job was.

I follow your logic and don’t necessarily disagree with your general thoughts on processing power but think the overall obsession with prestige in this industry is ridiculous. Grown adults are judging people based on there accomplishments from the ages of 14-18 in many cases 10+ years down the line. 

At the end of the day I firmly believe anyone without their head up their ass can do IB, PE, CO, HF, AM, etc. type work reasonably well. The concept of the target school and asking for test scores are just used as a filtering mechanisms because even then there are more qualified candidates than available seats. I expect this trend to only get worse in the future as I don’t see the number of seats in any of these industries growing anytime soon.

In many ways it’s incredibly ironic that these industries that pride themselves of having the smartest people and being at the forefront of business are becoming structurally challenged because they’re no longer growing (fees down in HF + AM world and poor performance across the board, S&T class sizes gutted post GFC, consolidation in IB post GFC and worse comp on a relative basis, etc.). I don’t think any other industries are necessarily any better off and should add that the tech changing the world for the better narrative drives me equally as insane. 


Higher test scores don't always mean higher intelligence, and that's not the point.

Think of all the components that go into taking these exams. You have to dedicate time to studying, whether for yourself or with a provider, and you have to study efficiently and effectively. This is typically in addition to all your other obligations at the time. Then test day comes, in a timed, high-stress environment. If you get a high score, this shows you can prepare and perform under those conditions, which are qualities banks and buyside shops are looking for. You can also take these tests many times, so it's expected that whatever score you're showing is your "best and final." 

Now for the "why" my question back to you is: what else would you use? You're in the firm's shoes and have thousands on thousands of candidates from the best schools with the best grades and the best backgrounds. How would you filter this list down from 1,000 to 50 or 25? You would like to just know which one is going to be the best, but you need to fill this role in 2 weeks and will get to spend all of ~4-8 hours vetting each candidate. Well, you're in luck because there are these standardized tests that almost all of the 1,000 applicants took with similar topics, resources, and testing conditions and they are all neatly bucketed into percentiles.


I'm a horrible test taker and have been below average in B school despite probably putting in more 'time' than others. I had a mid 600 GMAT score and a ~320 GRE score, I felt I had better recruiting outcomes than a few people I know who had 330+ GREs / 740+ GMAT. If anything being socially awkward and not being able to fit into a crowd very easily is way more detrimental than being a bad test taker.

Have a classmate who I consider a slightly average student but having gone with him to Superdays, this guy's executive / professional presence is off the charts. He's able to keep it light and still remain extremely professional / polished. I know for a fact he almost paid sticker at my school for the MBA program until he got into a slightly better school and negotiated for some scholarship (I think this classmate of mine will do very well in the corporate world because he's above average intelligence but his charisma and professionalism in corporate environments to me is well above most of us).

TL;DR: I don't think test scores at all correlate to higher ability.


The SAT is designed in part to predict college success where there is a correlation between test scores and grades in college but academic success is not synonymous with measuring intelligence as a whole.

Additionally, standardized tests tend to measure certain cognitive skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and the ability to learn and apply new information. Such skills may be more useful in certain job functions than in others.

Research also suggests there are many ways to measure intelligence, including musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligences, among others. Standardized tests like the SAT typically measure only a narrow set of this intelligence.


In fields like IB or PE specifically, scores like the GMAT, SAT and GRE are indicators of an individual's capacity to handle complex problem-solving, critical reasoning, and abstract thinking under pressure. The rigorous demands of a high finance role broadly align with the skills tested in these examinations. They provide a uniform measure to evaluate candidates coming from diverse educational backgrounds and upbringings, ensuring a meritocratic screening process that supports a team's commitment to excellence.

There's a significant amount of financial modeling, market analysis, and diligence involved. A solid performance on standardized tests correlates to an aptitude for the quantitative rigors of the job. While not the sole determinant, these scores are part of a holistic approach to assess the intellectual caliber of applicants and predict their potential to thrive in the demanding, fast-paced environment.

Additionally, these helps with efficiency. Given the plethora of applications for a single position, standardized scores help in quickly identifying high-caliber candidates who are more likely to excel in rigorous analytical tasks. These fields start with investing in the top talent, often signposted by test scores.

Try to keep in mind that many places deeply value practical experience, cultural fit, leadership qualities, and entrepreneurial spirit more as these are all important for a successful career. Having strong standardized test scores are merely a starting point—an important one—but they're part of a more holistic screening process


"Bro I'm just not a good test taker"

"Bro my ADD..."

"Bro I just didn't try"

Are all things dumb people say. Directionally, smart people will do better on their SATs than dull people if preparatory measures are held equal (dumbasses with expensive tutors can do okay). These people will also be better/quicker with modeling, back of envelope or mental math, being able to parse through long-winded legal docs and extract the salient points, etc. 

Idk how people can say the Reading section of SATs isn't pertinent in finance. Half the job on the execution side is being able to sift through long-winded arithmetic & legalese and extract the main point. That's nearly exactly what Reading subject tests are gauging. 


There are always exceptions to the rule, but:

1. The highest scoring kids are more likely to be stronger from the perspective of reasoning, problem-solving, analytical and communication capability.

2. The lowest score kids are less likely to do well at the above

That doesn't mean a kid with 1600 SAT, 800 GMAT, etc., won't fail at life, and won't be a complete idiot from an interpersonal skills perspective. It also doesn't mean a kid who got a 1200 SAT or 550 GMAT won't absolutely kill it at life through sheer grit, street smarts, and salesmanship. But those are both the exception, the ends of the bell-curve if you will.

A high-test score can also indicate good work ethic, or it can indicate a very strong natural ability to process complex information. Both are good things to have, though they don't mean everything.

Therefore, in the absence of other datapoints (e.g., a sustained record of high performance through a long-career or a track record), those who hire rely on the law of averages and will choose those who do better on standardized tests because most entry-level roles in professional settings are about analysis and work ethic less about sales. Interviews test the interpersonal side of things. As people get further on in their careers, test score matter less as the other datapoints become more important. I guarantee you if you were poaching an MD from a competing bank who was a rainmaker you wouldn't give two shits if they had a bad SAT in college.


Fair, these scores are more pertinent to entry level roles where there is more emphasis on analysis and crunching numbers rather than sales and relationship building which are more of an indicator of success at more senior levels. But to get a senior level role, people usually have to start off in these junior level roles


How about people who received tutoring? Many students from my uni mentioned they signed up for some exam prep program. These programs often cater to students who come from higher income backgrounds but people who are from lower income areas likely don't have the ability to get tutoring and then yield lower scores.

What if someone from one of these neighborhoods who would've naturally only gotten a 1100 could have gotten a 1360 with tutoring?


I grew up in a low income household and wasn't able to attend tutoring like some of the kids from my HS. I found that nowadays there are a lot of resources online that can help you learn and prepare for these exams either for free or at a low cost, so you don't need to enroll in a fancy 10k summer program to learn how to take these exams. So practically anyone who has a computer can learn how to take the SAT.

Additionally, from what I've heard from friends who've enrolled in these tutoring programs is that they only teach what's needed to get to a 1200-1300. To get to 1500+, the rest of the journey is still up one's own ability and determination. I've found the same with these online programs, but still found them to be helpful and worth learning from, and I would want to enroll my kids one day into tutoring programs.


I will never find someone who studied for a year and took the SAT/ACT 5 times just to get a 1500/33 even halfway impressive, but there's no way to tell from a resume.

It would be less impressive if someone took the SAT once or twice only to get a mediocre score and just used that score for their college applications assuming it was their ceiling rather than sign up for more opportunities.

Of course, the most impressive is the kid who takes the exam and gets over 1500 first try but that rarely happens


There are exceptions to everything, but it's been pretty widely studied and proven that general ability / intelligence / potential correlates strongly with better test scores (i.e the former leads to the latter, if it wasn't clear). Everyone can name anecdotal counterexamples, but in aggregate the evidence is pretty clear. The population of students scoring >1500 will on average be smarts and more capable than the students averaging <1200. Pick a random person that scored 1550 and a random person that scored 1050, and track them through life. More likely than not, the 1550 kid is going to be more successful and have better outcomes (again, there are exceptions). The SAT and other tests like it are really just a proxy for IQ at the end of the day, but with a more academic tilt. 

But again, correlation =/= causation. Those >1500 kids aren't successful because of their score, they were going to be successful anyways. The test scores are just laying it out in an objective metric. There are also plenty of studies showing that test prep doesn't really result in massive score differences (i.e more than say a 50pt bump or less).

People trying to excuse their poor scores should try and be frank with themselves. If it really is just an example of bad circumstances causing a bad score, then fine, you're the exception. But "I am a bad test taker" doesn't matter. What do you think happens in real life? You get tested all the time. It just isn't standardized and in a controlled environment. Being a good test taker is just a proxy for being able to perform under pressure. If you can't do that (or can't be assed to work on it) then you don't stand a chance in a high pressure job. Maybe, just maybe, you aren't as smart / capable as you thought you were. Maybe your strengths are in other areas, or maybe you just need to work that extra bit to make up for it. You can still grind and do whatever you want with your life if you set your mind to it (+ get lucky). But you can't go through life making excuses for yourself. Eventually it will catch up. 


From what I have read, all the test companies like college board, GMAC, and ETS etc. are very adamant that they are not IQ tests. Furthermore, IQ societies like MENSA do not accept them for entrance. However that said it’s clear that people with a high IQ tend to do better on standardised tests and I have seen studies with strong correlations. Watched a Jordan Peterson lecture (not generally a fan tho) where he was saying that people with high IQs do better on any type of activity that involves abstract thinking even inane stuff like counting the times a letter appears on a page in a book.

I think most people have a range they can score in on these tests depending on how they study and how they feel on exam day. For example, Elon Musk got a 1400 while Mark Zuckerberg got a 1600. Idk that means Zuck is smarter, but they are both in the 90th percentile of test takers. But doubt someone in the 60th percentile range could get close to their scores.


I think SAT scores do have some correlation with critical thinking, problem solving and aptitude and college readiness. However, having low grades may not always mean people won't be successful.


They say the average millionaire is a 2.9 gpa and 1190 sat student lol


There may be some correlation between SAT scores and measured IQ, yet it's not absolute. While individuals exhibiting high intelligence quotients often perform well on standardized assessments such as the SAT—owing to shared skills in problem-solving and critical reasoning—the reverse is not universally true. A superior SAT score does not guarantee an equivalently high IQ, as the SAT evaluates a narrower academic skill set that may be honed through preparation and is subject to educational background and resources

Moreover, the conjecture that individuals with lower IQs unfailingly score poorly on the SAT does not account for the multifaceted nature of intelligence and the diversity of intellectual strengths. It is overly reductionist and neglects the potential for variance and individual outliers

Furthermore, the significance of a high IQ must be contextualized; it is a foundational attribute, one component among many, in the architecture of personal capability. Intellectual prowess, while beneficial, operates in concert with a spectrum of other vital factors such as creativity, emotional intelligence, persistence, and social skills, all of which can compensate for a lower IQ and are frequently indispensable in achieving holistic success


They measure 3 things  - 

1) Your level of exposure to the material.  If you're some Asian kid who grew up attending "cram schools" from age 6 you should be a test-taking machine by the time you see the SAT since you'll be well-versed in both the concepts AND question styles.  Conversely, if you attended a shyt school district that never introduced you to Algebra, for example, you'll probably flop

2) They measure your work ethic.  The harder you prep on average, the better you do. With some unusual exceptions, people who get the highest scores approach studying and test-prep with Olympic-level intensity. 

3) They measure your ability to think under pressure.  Because of the time constraints, adaptive scoring (GMAT), etc. the tests keep track of who does a better job of maintaining focus under pressure versus someone who gets riled easily.  It's no wonder so many rich kids manage to get medical exemptions for "extra time" on the exam or claim they have anxiety or whatever to be able to take the exam free from regular time constraints.

And on the margins - say, 98th percentile and above, they measure raw intelligence - intelligence being a proxy for your ability to conceptualize both quickly and accurately on the fly and answer some of the more abstract, difficult, or well-disguised questions.

As long as a score wasn't too low - I wouldn't really care between a 1300 and a 1500 if, say, the 1300 was a better interviewer.  

My first practice GMAT was in the 500s. A few months of practice and I improved 200+ points.  Did I become "more intelligent" in that span?  Hardly.  Better prepared?  Certainly. 


The extra time only helps on the ACT, as it’s an easier exam and the largest constraint is time. It’s an exam you can study for and get a 35-36 if you can complete the sections in time. That’s why all the extra time kids opted to take that exam instead. 

The SAT measures aptitude and problem solving. One could have all the extra time in the world but it is still not going to get them a materially high score on it unless they were actually smart / know the correct answers to begin with. Most people realized this when taking a practice exam for 8 hours and realized they still did not know the answers to many questions, but with the ACT if one spent 8 hours on a practice exam they’d likely have a very good outcome given they spent time studying for it. 

These exams also test ones grit and perseverance. Some students give up after getting a 600 on their GMAT meanwhile others will take again and again until they get 750+ or whatever score they are comfortable with. Even if I saw a student with a 600 gmat, I’d think they could possibly be smart, yet not hardworking enough to take the exam a few more times to get a higher score 


Isn’t your logic flawed on your last point?

Once you hit a certain point studying to get a 90th percentile test score makes no sense at all. It offers diminishing returns and doesn’t build tangible skills that will help you succeed in the real world. I’d even argue spending 1.5-2 years of your life to get a 750+ on the GMAT is a colossal waste of time and tells me you care more about letting credentials speak for you than driving results in anything you’ve done professionally.

I for example was running and scaling a business when I was applying to business school. I spent 3-4 months studying for the exam and hit a wall in the mid 600’s which put me at a crossroads. I could continue to study at the expense of growth of my business or focus on growing revenue and developing tangible skills that would be transferable to anything I did after I got into business school. I chose the latter and also took into consideration that HBS + GSB were crapshoots even with a 750 GMAT and that the median test scores at these places indicate a substantial amount of students get with 70th-80th percentile test scores at both M7 + T15 programs.

Got into every program I applied to with scholarships with the exception being HBS who dinged me largely because of my test scores and graduated within the top 10% of my class at a T10 (chose going there for free over 50% scholarships at M7’s). It wasn’t all that hard to achieve either as I spent most of my time recruiting and outside of my first semester never attended a single class outside of exam days or studied for anything. Instead while most of my classmates with 750 GMATs were cramming for accounting or finance exams which were ridiculously easy I was boozing on the golf course and traveling like a madman (rented a house in Miami the winter of my second year and would fly in for exams). 

I’d argue that my approach is a hell of a lot smarter than the alternative. I should also add that I think the CFA while useful in some cases is also a colossal waste of time if you’re already on the buyside and good at what you do. The only way I’d consider getting it would be if I’m required to for marketing purposes by my firm or told to by people I respect if I ever go out on my own. 


My definition of intelligence is rational and logical mental processing ability. All the tests at some level measure logical mental processing, which is IQ and do a decent job at. However, something they can’t capture well is real world rationality which is more in the realm of judgement. Real world rationality and judgement can’t be totally separated from IQ but are also driven by experience, knowledge, temperament, and clarity of thought.

I don’t believe you can capture all these traits and skills in any test, even modified, as the world is way more abstract than can be accurately captured in a test. 


I don't know if it's the best measurement for IQ exactly but I'll tell you this: I've met tons of smart people who didn't have high scores, people barely remember their score after a few years post graduation. But the kids who score very high do tend to be fairly intelligent from what I've noticed when doing interviews


I’d say standardized tests correlate to higher intelligence when all other variables are controlled. For instance, I wasn’t a motivated student in high school and didn’t care for my SAT score. Couple that with an impoverished upbringing and I winded up with a 1200. Decent but nothing special by any means. By the time I got around to thinking about, and applying for MBA programs I had matured exponentially and took GMAT prep seriously. I ended up getting a 730 after 3 attempts (660, 720, & 730). With the right resources and the right mindset/approach I think most people can reach the 85th percentile barring for an intellectual impediment. I recruited for MBA Associate so I wasn’t asked for my SAT score by any banks except for GS, however every bank did ask about my GMAT but it seemed to be more of a gloss over question and didn’t carry much weight.


No, they don't care about SAT scores but they may ask you how much time you've spent on WSO arguing over whether standardized tests are a good measure of intelligence. In this case, higher is obviously better.

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As far as pure intellectual horsepower is concerned, they definitely do. However, intelligence/ability is multifaceted and exams such as the GMAT/SAT, while being a proven statistical bellwether for general life outcomes, do not paint the whole picture IMO.

From my own personal experience, there seem to be two broad aspects to general intelligence - quantitative/analytical/numerical intelligence and social/emotional/verbal intelligence. People in the first category are who we commonly picture as intelligent, partially due to our society's focus on the "hard" sciences - think software engineers, quant analysts, physicists and the like. Those in the second category, on the other hand, are characterized by social aptitude, charisma and/or a gift for the spoken/written word -  think actors, musicians, authors and lawyers.

Between these two categories, the former tends to think in a more structured/analytical manner and feels more at ease with numbers than the latter, but lacks its higher-level social skills and creative horizons/emotional awareness. Now, this is obviously a gross oversimplification, but I've observed that the vast majority of people, barring unforeseen complications like psychological/physical trauma, fall somewhere along this spectrum. Perhaps written/verbal intelligence could be slightly separated from social skills/charisma, but they tend to follow each other closely, at least in one way. It's no coincidence that great literary minds like Hemingway or Camus were also huge womanizers.

Back to the original question; exams like the GMAT/SAT have both a "quantitative" and a "verbal" section, hence capture a large part of this continuum. However, I believe they are skewed toward the first category, due in no small part to the nature of the exams themselves, which processes concepts into chunks that can be studied and assessed mechanically. Hence, I'd think it's easier for a quantitatively inclined student to break down and study verbal concepts than vice versa. I remember reading an article once on how Shakespeare would probably flunk the SAT essay section were he to take it today. And of course, social aptitude and emotional intelligence are virtually absent as a criterion from both these exams, despite their often massive importance in real-world success.

TLDR; these exams provide a reliable indicator of general ability, but only to a point.

To infinity... and beyond!

Once upon a time, I believed that SAT scores did measure intelligence.

When I was going to school in the early 2000s, parents and even guidance counselors would tell you that you can't study for standardized tests. If you took a couple of practice tests beforehand, you were well ahead of the curve.

Back then, the valedictorian might be the only person scoring a 1500 and I mean scoring a 1500 by doing a couple of practice tests, taking the test, and walking out. Maybe, they tried taking it twice at most. That was a smart kid!

Is that 1500 score the same today for a kid that has been taking prep classes for 3 years and has professional tutors? Absolutely not. With enough practice, I think an average person can make a pretty high score and it's misleading to their actual intelligence and potentially misleading to their actual drive if their parents were forcing them to study for years.


Most definitely higher ability. Average IQ (middle of the normal distribution) kids from Asian countries (Japan, China, Korea, etc.) can fairly easily score 800 on the SAT math. It's not because they are more intelligent than their American counterparts, but because Asian education has much higher standards than the US. Not to mention the "AP Calculus is racist," critical race theory, and other woke garbage lead by an army of sanctimonious "she/her/hers" social justice warriors masquerading as "educators" in this country... yeah, I can't imagine why American education is underperforming relative to the competition... (sarcasm)


When it comes to SAT or any standardized test, the main purpose is to see how well you did compared to others. This is why your SAT score comes with a big analysis of your sub-scores, your percentile, and etc. In general, yes, it does "indicate your abilities for analyzing texts and working with math", however there is no evidence that it is representative to your intellectual capabilities in the grand scheme of things.

If we are talking about intelligence - not so really. Technical/analytical questions asked during interviews exist for testing your critical thinking. If we are talking about pefomance, compared to to others, then DEFINITELY. And that is the main value of SAT - so that univerisities could see how good you are, compared to other test takers. Many statistical terms are used to describe your score: percentile, mean (average), upper/lower quartile, etc.

I hope that could bring some clearance for the discussion. To wrap it up, a standardized test (SAT included) would be inconclusive about your intellectual capabilities, as well as crititical thinking, but surely representative of how well you performed in comparison to others.


Full disclosure - no IB experience (but I don't think it's different than any other highly selective field).One of my kids was selected for one of those under 1% internships / offers. I think the number was something like 12k applicants for 100 spots worldwide. He's smart, went to a very good school (not IVY). His school was known for grade deflation. Was always a top student in high school, athlete, etc. I know this thread is about SAT but I think it relates to GPA as well. He did well in college, but not amazing. 3.5 I believe. That may have kept him out of some interview opportunities. I used to ask him why he couldn't get an A instead of an A- or B+ and his typical response was, " I could but the extra work required would be massive and I don't think it's worth it."  So 3.5 it was. He certainly worked hard, studied but didn't put in crazy hours at the library. Instead, he had a very enjoyable four yrs, made great friends, was very active in ECs that he enjoyed (Club sport, intramurals, business frat, etc.) This helped shape him beyond the academics and it shined through his resume, hireview, and superday. Professionally he has done quite well and is a leader within his role. 

So I think as long as scores are good enough (meaning they don't lock you out of the initial conversation - which a 3.5 probably did if he wanted MBB or GS IB), it becomes about the whole package and what they see in the candidate beyond entry level. Let's face it, most intelligent kids can do the work. He landed at a top AM shop and has a great future.


Yes - SAT exams are a measurement of aptitude. It's an exam that practically everyone takes in HS that measures everyone on the same standardized scale that adjust for differences in difficulty, rigor and grading standards from different schools and teachers.

It is some measurement of critical thinking and problem solving ability that translate well into the field of finance


When do you ever encounter someone who had a good GPA and SAT score who isn’t smart? Very rare if ever, or even if they were only somewhat intelligent, you could sure count on them being hard working and disciplined enough to eventually learn what’s needed to do well


I think much of it reflects what you were exposed to in terms of reading and math up until you took the test and how much experience you have taking tests seriously.

I was a pretty indifferent student in high school but still managed to score a 1320 on my SAT, which might be low on this thread but was way better than nearly all of my friends. I got a 700 on the GMAT (which took a lot of studying I'll admit), and IIRC the %ile for a 700 is much higher than it is for a 1320 especially considering the different populations that take the exams. I think much of that improvement came from just starting to take things more seriously starting in late high school and doing well in college.

Likewise my wife had around a 900 SAT, which isn't surprising since she was a non-native English speaker new to the US. Likewise, she did relatively much better on the GMAT than SAT.

I don't think either of us got all that much smarter between each test.


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