Are standardized tests such as the SAT/ACT a good measure of intelligence?

Prospect in IB-M&A

For reference this debate started https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/why-are-kid...
Here's what an anonymous analyst stated as to why he/she believes yes:
"Any test that gauges cognitive ability to work with abstract concepts, arithmetic and language comprehension is essentially a type IQ test. SATs are literally IQ tests with extra steps that colleges use to gain a relatively effective snapshot into an aspect of how a student will perform, as grades and effort levels to reach them vary by school, district economic background etc. A person's score on the SAT is a better predictor of their lifetime earnings than what college they went to. That's because it doesn't matter if you went to Duke or Arizona State, more often than not if you've got a high IQ you'll make more than people who don't.

Below you also start siting work ethic as something SATs fail to measure. No shit. The test doesn't gauge work ethic, the only thing that does is being able to observe a person's output relative to effort over time. The test is fixed and remains relatively unchanged so that the only variable that does change is the people taking it, resulting in an effective distribution very similar to that of IQ. The fact that it doesn't change and doesn't wildly swing from one end of performance to the other year after year shows that it doesn't matter if you know how the test works beforehand, if you're not smart enough to perform it's still going to rank you low. People who are both smart enough and prepared enough are able to significantly outperform."

My position is no and here's my last post (response to above) as to why:
"All the SAT measures is how good you are at English/grammar and these are just rules. Granted the reading comprehension section is a little tricker but the questions take a similar form after repeated practice. The math section is just plain silly and explains full well why countries such as China and South Korea crush the US on quantitative ability. So your argument that SAT somehow predicts IQ is wrong. I know a lot of rich kids that have private SAT coaches that teach them all the necessary formulas. I have other friends who prepared for close to a year (on and off) for the exam. I have friends who weren't as concerned and didn't do as well. "

Now what do you all think?

Comments (45)

Nov 9, 2019

I don't think they're that accurate. People who prepare and hire tutors perform better on average. It depends on the motivation of someone at age 16 or so. 16 year old me is very different than who I am today. And I will be very different in a few years from now. And a few years beyond that. And so on. This is coming from someone who scored in the top 5%. I didn't take that seriously because I never really took getting into college seriously. Maybe I'm jaded because I'm outside the median portion of the normal distribution curve. Who knows?

Anytime someone has an absolute answer to a complex topic (human intelligence), they're most likely wrong.

"The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary." - Nassim Taleb

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Nov 9, 2019
Malta Monkey:

I'm outside the median portion of the normal distraction curve.

distraction curve?

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Nov 10, 2019

Typo. Changed to distribution.

"The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary." - Nassim Taleb

Nov 10, 2019

Although that was a typo, do you think this is all a distraction from the end? We're all going to die. Everyone knows this. Not here to discuss afterlife. All we are certain is that this life, whatever form it is, ends at some point. Some test defining your life seems like an odd concept. Sure, we can argue earning potential changes the quality and opportunities of life. But I don't think that this form of intelligence is the most important indicator of life satisfaction. Earning has been proven to not move the needle for life satisfaction above a certain threshold, and that threshold being easily obtainable by someone of marginally below average intelligence.

Specifically to you, you seem to have found joy in art. Maybe other things, haven't seen you post in a while. Curious to hear your thoughts.

"The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary." - Nassim Taleb

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Nov 9, 2019

SAT scores are absolutely an indication of intelligence across a total population and specifically when comparing groups of students with similar educational backgrounds. What they aren't is an exact indication of IQ the way an IQ test is. For example, a person with a 1300 SAT isn't necessarily smarter than a person with a 1230 SAT because there are enough factors that go into performance (preparation, sleep the night before, etc.). But broadly speaking, a group of people with a 1300 SAT score are probably a little smarter than a group of people with a 1230.

There is also a myth that SAT prep comes with significant gains. I prepped considerably with an elite organization and I gained 80 points, and most of that gain was probably from just taking and re-taking the test.

https://slate.com/technology/2019/04/sat-prep-cour...
Once scholars control for all these factors as best they can, they find that coaching has a positive but small effect: Perhaps 10 or 20 points in total on the SAT, mostly on the math section, according to careful work by Derek Briggs of the University of Colorado Boulder and Ben Domingue of Stanford University.

As the OP alludes to, studies show that people who achieve an SAT similar to the average of an enrolled Ivy League student but got rejected by those schools typically go on to similar earnings as Ivy League students, which heavily suggests that intelligence plays a key role in test performance.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Nov 9, 2019

Your source is somewhat flawed. Your source when referring to test prep programs seems to be discussing more about expensive programs such as Kaplan prep. Those programs are ultimately self-driven so I agree that the kids signing up for those are already motivated kids. But what I was alluding to in the OP is SAT prep sessions with coaches that occur at top private schools. This is a lot different because students will be more inclined to do it since their friends are doing it. Having that social interaction goes a long way from just grinding 1000 practice problems on Kaplan online.

Nov 10, 2019
Prospect in IB-M&A:

Your source is somewhat flawed. Your source when referring to test prep programs seems to be discussing more about expensive programs such as Kaplan prep. Those programs are ultimately self-driven so I agree that the kids signing up for those are already motivated kids. But what I was alluding to in the OP is SAT prep sessions with coaches that occur at top private schools. This is a lot different because students will be more inclined to do it since their friends are doing it. Having that social interaction goes a long way from just grinding 1000 practice problems on Kaplan online.

Like I said, I test prepped in an elite and expensive program to an 80 point increase, which seems to agree with the finding of the study. Regardless, there is a clear and indisputable correlation between SAT score and intelligence. This really isn't in dispute in any way. But that doesn't mean that the correlation is perfect.

Nov 11, 2019

What makes you think these fancy prep tutors are helpful at all? They're probably just bilking rich helicopter parents out of extra money because those parents will do anything to feel like they bought an edge (up to and including bribing officials and going to jail for it).

Also what makes you think that "social interaction" is more valuable than plain old practice?

Sorry, but I gotta say you sound like someone who didn't score as well as you'd like, and is looking for validation that you're still smart. My advice: even an IQ test doesn't do a great job of really demonstrating what your brain is capable of. If you want to be happy and successful and feel smart, then find some work you like doing and work hard at it.

Nov 9, 2019

I rather hire someone who scores 1500+/1600 compared to someone who scores 1100 because the former person is undeniably smarter. Prove me wrong.

Most Helpful
Nov 9, 2019
Pizz:

I rather hire someone who scores 1500+/1600 compared to someone who scores 1100 because the former person is undeniably smarter. Prove me wrong.

Yes. To your point, many of us know people who scored 1600 on the SAT, and most of us know those people to be geniuses. My cousin scored 1600 and he is an NSA codebreaker. On the other hand, we know of some seriously unintelligent people in our lives who scored below 900. It stands to reason that there is a correlation to intelligence.

What we can't say is that there is a discernable difference in intelligence when looking at two individuals in isolation with a score 30 points apart. The SAT is correlated to intelligence, but it's not a perfect 1.0 correlation.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Nov 9, 2019

Right but usually an Ivy isn't deciding between a 1600 and a 1100 lol. It's more like a 1590 and a 1540 and that's when things get a little bit more iffy.

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Funniest
Nov 9, 2019

SAT, ACT, BET, MTV doesn't matter lakers in 5

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  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Nov 11, 2019

cringes

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Nov 11, 2019

ok boomer

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  • Analyst 3+ in IB-M&A
Nov 10, 2019

I mean the tutors understand the test and prepare you better to handle the sort of questions they'll throw at you. If it wasn't for tutoring, I would have been so confused by the questions/never would have finished.

I think regardless of anything, tutoring at least gives you a psycho feeling of being prepared to take this exam because you've spent countless hours prepping for it. Mindset can do wonders for you.

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  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Nov 10, 2019

I got 2060 in old sat - which equates to 1410 in new sat - without any Tuition lessons at all. I'm also an immigrant whose Native language is Urdu. Do you guys think schools will cut me slack? I'm in top 5% of my class at a foreign elite school - one of the best in subcontinent - and have played for my state's golf and equestrian team

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Nov 10, 2019

I think they're a good measure of what really matters - work ethic + intelligence combined; I don't think they're the best way to measure IQ but whatever.

I think anybody reasonably smart could study and get like a 33 on the ACT - this isn't South Korea. If you come from a disadvantaged background, yeah you might not have tutors but you can get your hands on practice tests and study your ass off and get a good score.

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Nov 15, 2019

They might be a great way for colleges to measure intelligence + work ethic, but I don't think companies should take them into account. Your work ethic is a lot more important than your intelligence in my opinion, and that changes a lot after high school. I had a shit work ethic back then, didn't even pick up an SAT study book once.

Nov 17, 2019

Standardized tests POUNDED me in the ASS

"one for the money two for the better green 3 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine" - M.F. Doom

Nov 10, 2019

I think standardized tests are flawed in the way that a lot of important information (about the taker) is omitted. You only get scores, that's it.

If person A preps for his tests 6-12 months ahead, has private tutors, studies strategically, etc. and scores high, that's one thing. But with person B who has never studied a day in his / her life takes the same test, and scores the same? You obviously have two very different students. Hell, what if you have person C - usually very capable - but simply has a bad day.

Standardized tests would be great if you have completely even playing fields, and same starting point.

It's like with college grades - some schools allow you to take the same class / final multiple times. Big difference between someone who can take the class and get A on first try, and someone who got his/her A on the fifth try.

But as for IQ / SAT link - I guess they've done some studies on how correlated the two are, and the results are good enough for companies to use SAT as an IQ indicator, effectively bypassing any discrimination laws (depending on where you live, it's illegal to use IQ tests in part of job interviews / selection ).

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  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Nov 11, 2019

Right but employers can look at college grades/transcripts to determine stuff like that. In the case of the SAT it's hard to determine anything. And setting arbitrary score guidelines based off of race/skin color makes the matter even worse. What do you think about those adjustments? I notice you mention the "equal playing field."

Nov 11, 2019

I did way better on the ACT after a tutor told me how to interpret the problems. I guess it boils down to how hard it would be to get a good ACT score if everyone has tutors. The test itself isn't hard interpreting the problems is

Nov 11, 2019

I went to a target school for undergrad and MBA, my dad was an MD on Wall Street, my GPA was 3.98, and I interned at a BB bank.

Yet I was not given a full time offer because they found out my SAT score was too low.

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Nov 11, 2019

trolo

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

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Nov 11, 2019

Sounds like a happy Rick Singer customer. Were you "on the water polo team?"

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Nov 11, 2019

i taught the SAT verbal at a SAT prep school and over 6-8 weeks and we saw students raise their scores 100 to200 points (when the test was 2400 points total). Grammar and essay were the easiest to boost - as in so easy it wasn't fair to students who didn't learn the tricks.

This didn't mean they were more intelligent necessarily, it meant they were willing to put in the work, they had a good tuto and their parents were willing/able to put forth the $$$.

owner of the sat prep company: "SAT isn't a judge of how smart you are, it's a judge of how well you can take the SAT"

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

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Nov 12, 2019

Do you think all standardized tests like the GMAT, GRE, LSAT and MCAT are just like the SAT in the way that if you study really hard and know the tricks and tips, then you can do well?

Nov 12, 2019

oh without a doubt, there are always ways to "hack" those tests.

we definitely saw some kids come in and get a near perfect scores on their first try, but also saw kids who were horrible test takers and bombed their first time. But once they had taken some timed practice tests and learned the tricks they were fine

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Nov 15, 2019

The thing about those tests, especially the LSAT, is they are designed to test your ability to do these tests under pressure and with a serious time deficit. Malcolm Gladwell has a great podcast explaining how the LSAT doesn't really test for solid reasoning and that some aspects of law, like Supreme Court clerks, require a slower method of thinking that the LSAT doesn't reward at all. Some aspects of business are rewarded by being able to think quickly, make assumptions and decisions with limited information, and move on, standardized tests test those well, but others aspects are clearly left out (EQ being a major blind spot of standardized tests when it comes to hiring, I'd rather have a slightly lower IQ individual with higher EQ in a sales or client facing role than the reverse).

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Nov 11, 2019

If you did well on the SAT, yes. If you did poorly, then no.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Nov 11, 2019

Had a friend who got a 1590 and would refuse to let me call her smart lol. She said SAT doesn't measure intelligence. So don't assume I am making this post to feel like I'm smart. I'm asking a legitimate question here.

Nov 12, 2019

I was saying that tongue in cheek. Obviously, there are inherent biases in all of these "standardized" tests. But my point is that most people who did well on these tests will argue that these tests are an accurate measure of intelligence. And, conversely, most people who did poorly will argue that it's not. It's the same phenomenon when people take credit for good things that happen to them and attribute 100% of it to their skill, and them blame luck when something bad happens to them. So most of the answers that you will get in response to your "legitimate" question will be skewed in that sense.

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Nov 11, 2019

For competitive colleges you need some common standard of comparison. If someone from a tough high school gets a 3.2 GPA and a 1500 SAT, and someone from a weak high school gets a 4.0 and a 1300 SAT, that indicates just how different the high schools really are. But in that situation schools will often take the 1300 over the 1500 which, if you ask me, is total bullshit. To me all it does is prove how different the high schools are and how silly it is to compare their GPAs.

Nov 12, 2019

I went to the kind of school where none of us even knew you could prep for the ACT. We just took the thing once and that was that. I was astounded meeting people at college who had tutors or took the test 3+ times.

I think some other poster said it well - if you have a group of 1500 SAT scores and a group of 1400 SAT scores, the 1500 cohort is probably smarter but on a case-by-case basis the context matters.

Nov 12, 2019

No, but they are a good measure of unintelligence.
Illinois recently dropped the test you have to take to become a SPED teacher because too many people were failing and there's a huge SPED shortage.
At my wife's old school's, one of her SICAs (SPED classroom assistant) had aspirations of becoming a teacher, but couldn't pass the test.
My wife had studied for the wrong exam entirely on accident, realized this as they handed her the test on test day, and she got like a 97.

What conclusions can we draw here? One person is an idiot and one is clueless?

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

https://arthuxtable.com/

Nov 13, 2019

Highly subjective answer to the original question, but I think these tests are necessary. Reason being, some colleges and high schools are 'easier' in the way of grading than others. GPA's are far from apples to apples, so this is one solution.

Nov 13, 2019

I think preparation > intelligence, provided one has at least average capabilities. I find it hard to believe that someone who grew up attending Korean cram schools wouldn't be more than adequately prepared to ace the SAT or any other standardized test after literal years of drilling.

I'd say intelligence is a smaller part of it (you still do need to learn the concepts and retain important info), unless all those cram school kids are just natural geniuses going in. There's definitely something to be said for reps and honing test-taking skills in addition to just force feeding material.

I also do think it becomes much more difficult for you after certain development windows have closed. I doubt that someone with a poor foundational education could just pick up and cram for the SAT late in life and do extremely well.

Nov 13, 2019
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Nov 15, 2019
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