The short answer is grade point average.
But it’s really not a short answer. It’s not a short question, even. It’s a difficult, complicated, messy question and answer that we have no ability to answer definitively.
But we’ll try to make a case for a few reasons why your grade point average is probably more important than you SAT scores.
Why standardized testing is still important
One of the biggest benefits of standardized testing is that it evens the playing field. Everyone gets the same tests. Everyone is graded the same way. It doesn’t matter if you came from the woods in Louisiana or the inner-city in Chicago, you get to take the same, long, painful, boring tests.
Maybe that’s not “fun,” but it’s beneficial.
Think about colleges. It’s probably really beneficial for them. If you have students from two totally different school systems, one could have a 3.0 GPA but actually have worked harder, learned more, and been higher in his class than a student with a 4.0 GPA at some other schools.
Testing is probably the easiest way to measure students against the same standard. I really don’t have a problem with it, personally.
But we also know that some people are really intelligent, work hard, have great GPAs, and bombed the test. That’s when an issue shows up – can four hours of your life really be the best indicator of your future contribution to society?
Eh, like we said, that’s too complicated for us answer. You probably won’t figure it out either. But you can accept it — because that’s part of life.
But our question today has to do with grade point averages.
A recent study – “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions” (you can read it here) suggests that your grade point average may actually be a better indicator of your future success.
Why your grade point average is so important for future success
The study wanted to see if student’s grade point averages or their standardized test scores were better indicators of success. When they compared students who didn’t apply with a test score to college students who did, what they found was interesting: nothing.
That’s right. Nothing. There were almost no differences between students who applied with test scores vs. those without them.
As it turns out, high school GPA was a more important indicator of future success. The authors of the study write:
Hard work and good grades in high school matter, and they matter a lot. (pg.3)
We want to flesh this out a bit, because it’s important. Here are 4 important reasons we’ve seen your GPA be more important than your SAT or ACT scores (not from the study – from our personal experience with students):
1. Grade point average measures results, not potential
When you are a great test-taker, it tells one important thing: you are a great test-taker.
That’s about it though. This tends to show us your potential. It tends to show your level of intelligence, ability to focus for a solid block of time, and — to some degree — how well you’ve learned in the past.
It’s not bad to measure potential. I want to know the people with whom I work have the potential to do great things.Grade point average measures results, not potential. #studyClick To Tweet
But results are an entirely different kettle of fish.
You can measure results as well — we call it “grade point average.” And the results of your efforts as a student are a much more important measurement in our experience.
This doesn’t mean you have to have straight A’s. It just means that your GPA tells us something about the patterns of achievement in your life. In all honesty, you can have a terrible grade point average right now, but bringing your GPA up tells us something too. That’s a result, and it may be even better than have straight As.
2. Grade point average is a long-term measurement
Your cumulative GPA is just that – cumulative. It’s a summary of a lot of hard work for a long time.
Tests are short. Grade point averages are long. And they don’t go away. They stick with you.
Sure, your future boss may or may not ever look at your grade point average from middle school or high school. But it will be a good indication for you of whether or not your long-term rhythms and patterns are the kinds of patterns that will lead to sustainable success.
3. Grade point average often indicates your life skills
Grades matter because your life skills matter.
Education is a training ground. If you don’t have good strategies for dealing with the tasks before you while in school, you’re probably not going to suddenly figure them out.
Getting assignments done on time, keeping track of your to-do lists, and staying organized are important whether you are a student, employee, or just a citizen. Learning it now will help down the road.
4. Intelligence can only get you so far
Grade point average doesn’t define your intelligence. It’s gotten that reputation. But that’s not what it does.
Being a brilliant thinker and being a brilliant student are two different things. Studying is a skill. Being a genius is a God-given ability.
Ultimately, all of us will exhaust what we can do with our intelligence. But the lifestyle you’ve developed, the habits you keep, and the patterns you create as a student (ultimately seen in your Grade Point Average) will either hinder your success or carry you through life.
We don’t have all the answers on this – but we hope this contributes to the conversation. What do you think about standardized tests or GPA?