Do high SAT scores and a high GPA tell you different things?

State and district 2009 SAT scores are being released Tuesday.

There has been a fair amount of debate over whether SAT scores or class grades tell you more about a student’s ability to succeed in the first year of college. The standard line now is that both matter in predicting a student’s performance in college. However, there has been a stronger emphasis in recent years – at least in commentary from admissions folks – on grades and grade point average.

I think the SAT and the GPA can tell you slightly different things. If I needed critical analytical skills, strong writing ability and quick thinking, I would hire the person with the stratospheric SAT scores. Most of the people I have met with perfect SAT scores are dazzling thinkers and mentally nimble. I can see how they would be ideal hires in an advertising agency or think tank.

However, if I needed someone who was dedicated, hardworking and determined to see a project through to completion, I would go for the person with the stellar GPA. This is the person I could trust with setting high standards and doing what it took to achieve them. These are the folks I would want as project managers or team leaders.

Ideally, of course, I would want to hire someone with both top scores and grades.

I would love to know what teachers have observed in their students.

Expect a lot of discussion later Tuesday as the SAT scores roll out.

33 comments Add your comment

NCR

August 25th, 2009
12:56 am

High SAT scores are where it’s at. Can’t hide brilliant quick thinkers. High GPAs can be totally faked by going to an easy school district that doesn’t push their kids. I’ve seen the dumbest people that have high GPAs.

David

August 25th, 2009
1:39 am

If you have a high SAT score, you better have a great GPA, or you are just lazy.

NCR- brilliant quick thinkers don’t last very long when they are lazy. The harder working kids with less talent will beat them.

sam

August 25th, 2009
4:49 am

Both GPA and SAT scores combined are a great indicator of success in college. The discrepancy comes when a student has an unusually high GPA(over a 4.0) and a sub par SAT score. College admissions officers have to scrutinize the high school transcript and see exactly what courses a student has taken and the grades earned in those courses. Some high schools boast that they are pushing more students to take AP courses which offer quality points for GPAs but in reality, the AP course is nothing more than an on level high school course where the rigor of an AP course was lowered because the students would not or could not do college level work. Just look at the AP scores for the students who take the AP test! If the student earns an “A” in the AP course but a score of “1″ on the AP test, something is wrong! As the College Board says, the grade earned in the class should somewhat correlate with the score earned on the test. This is where inflated GPAs happen and low test scores on the SAT, ACT or AP tests show an entirely different picture of the student’s ability and knowledge level.

Perturbed

August 25th, 2009
5:35 am

I have taught the SAT for a very long time, and a student can really raise their score by about 200 points if they understand the test. However, you have to be really bright to get the highest scores 700+, you can’t fake that. There is also the student with test anxiety. Of course, do I really want them for the challenging job? Gimme the “Combo Kid”, both high.

Dan

August 25th, 2009
6:23 am

Sadly, and I say this as a teacher, grade inflation is a reality. However, this goes for colleges, too.

Dan

August 25th, 2009
6:36 am

Actually David, logically the inverse of your argument is more telling. If you have a high GPA and you bomb the SAT, your GPA is clearly inflated. Excepting the few students with severe test anxiety but then the real world is often more daunting then a test so such a person is likely to have problems anyway

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
6:39 am

It’s funny that one needs the S.A.T. scores to get into college, but standardized tests are not part of a college curriculum. I remember, in my college sorority, we had a young freshman girl coming through Rush who had almost a perfect S.A.T. score. Our “adviors” insist take her because she would make our grades look good. Yes, this young girl was “smart”, but flunked out of college after her freshman year. While, this girl could “take a test”, she did not have the actual study skills to succeed in college.

catlady

August 25th, 2009
6:55 am

Research has shown that both, taken together, are better predictors of success. However, if I had to choose one or the other, at least here in Georgia, I would say go with SAT. It’s true that a high SAT does not guarantee success (nor does a high IQ). Grade inflation, at least among less prestigious high schools, is a serious fact of life. Too many grading expectations are colored by the overall calibre of the student body and SES of the community.

I interned in the admissions office of a large, popular university in the South (not in Georgia) and I was struck with how many candidates presented with a 4.0 or close but could not muster 800 on the old SAT! Now, that is starting with 400 points given to you off the top!

As to Dunwoody Mom’s comments, I think most students are shocked that what they thought was studying in high school did not translate into the work they needed to be able to do in college. Even AP courses did not prepare them for the workload.

Ernest

August 25th, 2009
7:14 am

I’ll simply say ditto to the comments made by Catlady. My personal observation is there is significant grade inflation in many of our schools. I believe this is why many look to a standardized test as a consistent measure to help determine what a student knows and has the capability of achieving.

Touching briefly on the blog topic regarding admissions, I also interpreted that colleges/universities were not just looking for students that can be admitted to their institution but can successfully graduate. IMO, the outcomes of those admitted is as much a telling sign about that school than anything else. Ultimately everything does come down to ‘personal responsibility’ however one would want to know of the resources available for students that recognize they need additional assistance.

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
7:50 am

catlady, I’m sure for most students there is an adjustment to college life, though I think it is the job of the parents and high schools to prepare them somewhat, i.e. AP courses, Admissions seminars, etc.

However, I’m fairly certain that someone with an almost a perfect S.A.T. score and straight A’s should not flunk out of college.

motherjanegoose

August 25th, 2009
7:58 am

SAT and ACT are more objective….grades are more subjective….in my opinion.
Also, most any educators can tell you that getting an A in one class does not mean you are going to get an A in the same class with a different teacher. The kids know who is an “easier A”. Kind of like buying the same make and model of car at 2 different dealerships…will the price always be the same?

Black Girl

August 25th, 2009
8:21 am

I suppose I fall into the category of “other” when it comes to this discussion. I admit that I didn’t work particularly hard in school, although I was able to get a scholarship. My SAT scores were’re very high either. I worked really hard in college because I enjoyed my coursework. I majored in something I loved! The only true tell-tell sign of whether a student will succeed in college is when they get to college!

Black Girl

August 25th, 2009
8:22 am

OH, one more thing. I not only graduated with honors, but I immediately went to graduate school and received my masters. Not bad for someone without the high GPA and SAT scores.

B Toups

August 25th, 2009
8:26 am

The SAT score is the best indicator. You can take easy classes in high school and work the system to inflate your GPA, and the HOPE scholarship creates incentives for students to do this and for teachers to enable them to do it. The SAT score cannot be manipulated in such a way.

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
9:12 am

I watched just a little of the school special on WSB last night. I did not realize that over 43% of Hope scholarship receipients lose their scholarships after the first year.

Here’s a question: Do college grades really matter when seeking a job? I know no one asked me for my college transcript when I interviewed for jobs. If not, why do we insist that students have a “B” average to keep their scholarships?

Dan

August 25th, 2009
10:14 am

Very obvious answers for Black Girl and Dunwoody Mom, the number of college seats that are available is finite, therefore it is simply unrealistic to let everyone into college to see if they can do it as Blackgirl implies (BTW congrats on your accomplishment) however you can’t make general rules from extreme cases. Most people who finish college with honors did well on their SATs and High School also. As for Dunwoody Mom, same thing, if you have limited seats, let those who would best use them have them. By your logic we should just mail them a diploma for $100K or so and be done with it. People only appreciate what they have earned there must be some achievment associated with providing such a great opportunity

What is right for kids?

August 25th, 2009
10:39 am

So what is the story with APS and the cheating scandal?

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
10:40 am

Dan, I’m somewhat confused by your comments. So, you are saying the students who have a “C” average in college do not appreciate being there and therefore, in your world, should not be?

Dan

August 25th, 2009
10:52 am

Dunwoody Mom, What I am saying is given a finite number of spaces/seats someone with a B average deserves that spot more.

grades do matter

August 25th, 2009
10:56 am

I agree with Dan wholeheartedly.

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
10:59 am

So, a person with a “C” average should not only lose their Hope scholarship but be kicked out of college?

AeroNautica0909

August 25th, 2009
11:02 am

I think BlackGirl has a point in saying that she loves what she is doing. That’s the most important part. Each child has a different passion and different interests. Of course it is not possible to represent all of these interests and passions on standardized tests and in classes. However, if someone has a passion for something in particular, they will excel at it no matter what some test says or what their GPA is. Some of the smartest people in the world are not necessarily those with high GPAs and high SAT/ACT scores.

To understand this a bit more, if you don’t want to do something, how much effort are you going to put into doing it? If you love doing something and think about it every minute of every day, such as programming new software, then you’ll excel at being a programmer, regardless if you had a 2.5 GPA in HS and a 1200 on your SAT.

Black Girl

August 25th, 2009
11:08 am

Dunwoody Mom. I see your point, as well as Dan’s. A person with a “C” average didn’t fail, therefore they deserve to keep their scholarship. However, many institutions have the same rule in place. Students must maintain a “B” average to keep their scholarship. Personally, I think that a 2.5 average is acceptable.

Dan, I also see your point. I realize that I am not necessarily the “norm”. Had I actually put forth the effort, I would’ve graduated from high school with honors, but I doubt that my SAT score would’ve been much higher. I am what I am…academically average. My gifts are in other areas. A student that has earned a “B” average does deserve the seat more because they probably, and I mean probably, worked harder. There are those times when a “C” is your best.

AeroNautica0909

August 25th, 2009
11:08 am

BlackGirl has a point that I feel most people are failing to see. That point is ‘passion.’ Every child has something that they love to do. While it may not be possible to reflect all the possible passions on a standardized test or in a classroom, these tests cannot determine how a person will excel in an area that evokes passion within them. For example, say there is a child that loves programming and writing small pieces of software. However, he has a 2.5 GPA and a 1200 on his SAT. That does not mean he’s dumb or slow or not really interested in school. It is very much possible that nothing in class or on the standardized test is invoking that passion. I believe there needs to be more of a discussion of how to invoke these passions within these children instead of looking to standardized tests to see how successful the student will be later on in life.

J.M.

August 25th, 2009
11:21 am

“Most of the people I have met with perfect SAT scores are dazzling thinkers and mentally nimble. I can see how they would be ideal hires in an advertising agency…”

This excerpt cracked me up. You obviously don’t know many people in advertising. Not the sharpest bunch.

grades do matter

August 25th, 2009
11:39 am

A person with a C average should lose their HOPE. I believe that there are rules in place that address academic probation and such. If a student studies and reaches a 3.0, he or she can receive the HOPE again.

Katy Johnston

August 25th, 2009
11:45 am

Both SAT Scores and GPA show how hard you’re willing to work, and how willing the student’s parents are to help out their child. My son’s SAT scores, and GPA, were both lower than it should have been, so we got him some tutoring from C2. Neither the SAT nor the GPA shows any sort of innate knowledge – a 4.0 from someone without tutoring vs. a 4.0 from someone with tutoring looks the exact same on college applications and transcripts.

what's right for kids???

August 25th, 2009
11:56 am

SAT Scores in the state are down 6 points, 2 points in the nation, and 9 points in my county on average. The points are negligible, but if we look to a two year loss in points, we will see that Georgia has gone down 10 points, and the nation has only lost two.
So what do we need to do to ensure that the kids are learning?

Dan

August 25th, 2009
12:24 pm

Dunwoody Mom, you keep addressing only one side of the problem. Did you ever hear of the adage “you can’t get one thing clean without getting another dirty”. simple answer yes the C average should lose their seat if their is someone cabable of utilizing that asset better
This goes 10 fold when, the public is picking up the tab. Face it these days simply showing up to class earns you a C. Except in those disciplines requiring exams to enter the profession post degree, ie engineers, doctors, lawyers etc. Funny how you come back to standardized testing

Dan

August 25th, 2009
12:31 pm

Aeronautica, you are correct and there are many varied scholarships and opportunities that are for niche students and academic pursuits. But in the realm of public domain rules must be made based on more quantifiable measures, lest we run into the nonsensical politically correct arguments.
To the person equating 4.0 grades with and without a tutor. First of all all those measures show some innate knowledge, more importantly the 4.0 would be the only identical piece on the application, there are other factors considered and often those who get 4.0 without tutoring, have much on their “resume” that indicates extra time and passion. As for the person needing tutoring, good for them, someone willing to do what it takes to get to the next level will most likely be succesful in any endeavor

Gwinnett citizen

August 25th, 2009
7:32 pm

Dunwoody mom says, “why do we insist that students have a “B” average to keep their scholarships?”

Are you kidding me?? You think someone achieving at an “average” level (that’s what a grade of C indicates) deserves a scholarship? If you ask me, a 3.0 is still too low to maintain a free ride. Make it at least a 3.5

NCR

August 25th, 2009
11:51 pm

“Getting the grade” is mostly about learning to “play the game”. I say mostly, because there is an element of “hustle” that does require SOME effort. But it depends. If you’re graded on group projects and somebody in your group does all the hard work, yet everyone in your group gets a A because of that, I’d say that qualifies as knowing how to “play the game”.

While you can learn to “study” the SAT for a better score, it’s still a much more accurate description of thinking quickly on your feet, given that you only have a few hours, which tends to show off your intellectual chops, your “potential”.

SATFREAK

November 8th, 2009
3:01 pm

I do not think the SAT or standardized tests for that matter are a good indication if a student will do well in college. One of the many reasons I think this is because some of the top students in high school are taking higher level classes that do not require the knowledge of grammer rules or geometry principles. People need to be reminded of this. People who generally do well on the SAT have had study sessions with some company such as Princeton Review. I do not think this is fair because not everyone can pay for those services.