SAT tests measure IQ

Psychologists find SAT tests to be strong indicator of general intelligence in a March 3, 2004 press release::

While the SAT is generally a good predictor of a student's performance in the first year of college, a new study from researchers at Case Western Reserve University finds that, more than anything else, the SAT is a measure of overall intelligence. Meredith C. Frey, a doctoral student in psychology, and Douglas K. Detterman, a professor of psychology, examined the relationship between SAT results and general cognitive ability in two studies. They believe the results of their study mean researchers can fairly accurately estimate a person's intelligence without administering a lengthy IQ test.

See also Comparison chart of SAT and IQ scores, based on 1019 SAT-1 Verbal + Math (the current average SAT) = 110 IQ (the estimated average for high school students taking SAT's). This translates into just a rough comparison chart, but no better charts have been found. The Educational Testing Service may have better SAT-IQ comparison data, but they oppose the linking the two.

Claude Steele: Chair of the Department of Psychology at Stanford University since 1997

But is this SAT an IQ test? "It is in a sense an IQ test. The SAT and IQ test correlate very highly. Between the SAT and the IQ, they correlate almost as much as the SAT correlates with a second administration of the SAT, as much as it correlates with itself. So they're very similar tests in content." from


Howard Gardner, Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University

"There has been much legal wrangling about the propriety of making consequential decisions about education (or indeed, life chances) on the basis of IQ scores.....Nevertheless, intelligence test(s)...have actually won the war. Many widely used scholastic measures are thinly disguised intelligence tests." (from his book Intelligence Reframed - click for more quotes)


Nicholas Lemann, author on the history of the SAT

Is the SAT an IQ test?

"According to people in the field--especially if they're sort of letting their hair down--they will say the SAT is essentially an IQ test, particularly the verbal portion is essentially an IQ test. I want to step back a little from the idea that the IQ test is a scientific measurement of intelligence. From the beginning, IQ tests essentially traffic in vocabulary items: antonyms, analogies, reading comprehension, it's a test of vocabulary fluency and accomplishment. So, the premise of an IQ test is that it is the same thing as intelligence. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. It's measuring one specific thing. It's not a magical, mystical test. The SAT grew out of an IQ test and the verbal in particular takes the oldest chestnut IQ testing techniques and applies them to high school seniors. And you know very widely, including in the Bell Curve itself, the SAT verbal score is used as a proxy IQ score, or is used as interchangeable with IQ scores. It's the thing that--to the extent that there's a sort of secret about Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT, the secret is that at least the test makers there know that what they're doing is administering a mass IQ test but the organization's very invested in denying that." from


Comments as above on IQ and SAT tests lead to:

1. Employers are asking job applicants for SAT scores. They are coming to realize that IQ accounts for up to 1/3 of an employee's success, and know that SAT scores are basically an intelligence measure.

2. A new SAT test is being developed that intends to measure more of what is taught in high schools, less of a person's IQ. This new test was urged by the president of the University of California system.

3, Researchers concerned with the economic success results for different ethnic groups are looking at SAT tests as one measure in their work, as with Jencks and Steele below:

Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips respond:

"We found all these comments on "America's Next Achievement Test" thoughtful and constructive...

Claude Steele, who has an excellent chapter in our new book (The Black-White Test Score Gap) on how stereotype threat can affect able black students' test performance, raises a crucial question when he asks whether the correlation between blacks' earnings and their test scores reflects the fact that scores on cognitive tests are important in their own right or are a proxy for something else. We do not think the scores themselves are crucial. If the Educational Testing Service secretly added 200 points to every African American's total SAT score but the underlying racial disparity in vocabulary, reading comprehension, and math skills remained unchanged, we do not think blacks' earnings would rise much. Our argument is not that scores matter but that skills matter....

We do not believe that vocabulary, reading, and math skills are mainly a proxy for growing up in an affluent family. Higher test scores are associated with higher earnings even when we compare siblings raised in the same family...

Cognitive skills are only one of many factors that influence earnings. But blacks and whites are far more alike on the noncognitive determinants of earnings than on the cognitive skills that standardized tests measure. As a result, cognitive skills explain a large percentage of the earnings difference between blacks and whites even though they explain only a small percentage of the variation in earnings among individuals of the same race."

In a significant revision of what Jencks had found some 25 years earlier, the authors concluded that...a black man and a white man with comparable test scores can now expect almost comparable earnings.from

Go to: Formulas converting SAT to IQ scores

Go to: Research findings on IQ, EI, and Social Skills

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