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How important is the SAT? That’s the question on a lot of college-bound students’ minds.


The SAT (or ACT) functions as a screener: many schools will automatically screen out applicants with an academic index (AI) lower than a certain threshold. Most colleges are unlikely to tell you what that threshold is.


Your AI is computed with standardized test scores and GPA or class rank. While it’s unlikely to get you into a top school alone, since you’re competing against many other students with high AIs, it could keep you out.


Why Your SAT Score Matters


As discussed previously, top schools use your SAT score as a screener at top schools. Big state schools that don’t necessarily perform a holistic review of individual candidates, since the applicant pool is so large, may place more weight on your scores. Your SAT results can also play a large factor in winning certain scholarships.

Why Colleges Want to See Your SAT Scores


Colleges want students who can handle the rigor of their curriculum. GPA and class rank often mean something different from school to school. For instance, an A at one school could translate to a B+ at another.


While colleges will receive a profile of your school to better understand the grade distribution and how your performance compares to that of your classmates, a standardized measure of academic performance helps them compare you to the larger admissions pool. Standardized tests are the same for everyone, so they give admissions committees another way to understand your academic performance. A 750 on your SAT Math test means the same for everyone, no matter what your background or high school.


That said, a strong SAT score is unlikely to make up for a weak GPA. If you perform well on the SAT but have weak grades compared to those of your classmates, colleges may wonder why you weren’t able to keep up in school.


However, if there were extenuating circumstances, such as a family emergency or illness, strong SAT scores could indicate that you have the aptitude to succeed in spite of low grades. Be sure to explain any circumstances outside of your control that impacted your academic performance on your applications.

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Testing-Optional Schools


Some colleges do not require standardized test scores as part of the admissions process. However, while submitting scores at these schools is not required, that doesn’t mean the tests are not considered. Between two candidates who are identical in other respects, the one who submits good test scores is going to have a leg up over the one who doesn’t submit scores at all. Check out The Reality of the Testing Optional Trend for more information about schools that don’t require test scores.


What You Should Be Doing to Prepare


So how can you make sure you perform well on the SAT?


Start by practicing. Take plenty of practice tests in the weeks and months leading up to your first sitting. Figure out your target score and concentrate on honing weak areas.


Taking the PSAT can also help you figure out what areas you need to improve. If you take the PSAT sophomore year and/or early junior year, you’ll know what to focus on in your studying.


Looking for some more help for acing the SAT? The CollegeVine SAT Tutoring Program will help you achieve top scores on your test. We’ll pair you with two private tutors, one for English and writing, and one for math and science. All of our tutors have scored in the 99th percentile on the section they are teaching and are chosen based on teaching skills and ability to relate to their students.

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine

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