Job Hunting? Dig Up Those Old SAT Scores

Melissa Korn, Wall Street Journal, February 25, 2014


Proving the adage that all of life is like high school, plenty of employers still care about a job candidate’s SAT score. Consulting firms such as Bain & Co. and McKinsey & Co. and banks like Goldman Sachs Group Inc. ask new college recruits for their scores, while other companies request them even for senior sales and management hires, eliciting scores from job candidates in their 40s and 50s.

The SAT, originally known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test and taken during junior or senior year of high school, is a common element of college applications. The exam is scored on a scale of 2400, with up to 800 points each for critical reading, math and writing sections. The average SAT score last year was a combined 1498. (Before March 2005, the test had just two sections and was scored on a 1600-point scale.)

A low score doesn’t necessarily kill a person’s chances, hiring managers say; instead, they say they believe SATs and other college entrance exams like the ACT help when comparing candidates with differing backgrounds or figuring out whether someone has the raw brainpower required for the job.

But some companies do set targets, particularly on the math section. Mark Rich, managing director of consulting-industry recruiting firm Whitehouse Pimms, says clients often tell him to screen for candidates whose SAT scores placed them in or above the 95th percentile. Investment firm D.E. Shaw Group asks candidates to break out their math and verbal results.


SATs and other academic artifacts remain relevant in part because they are easy—if imperfect—metrics for hiring managers to understand. This despite the fact that increased use of personality tests, data analytics and behavioral interviews have given employers more information about a candidate than ever before. Academic research has proved that cognitive ability can predict job performance, but there is scant evidence linking high SAT scores with employee success.


Putting too much stock in standardized tests can put minority candidates at a disadvantage. In 2013, SAT test-takers in the “Black or African-American” category scored an average 431 on the exam’s critical reading section, 429 on math and 418 on writing. White test-takers, meanwhile, scored nearly 100 points higher on average in every section. There is a racial divide for ACT score reports as well.



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  • dd121

    The libs outlawed IQ tests to screen for best qualified when hiring. Having a college degree doesn’t prove anything now. SATs are about as close to IQ tests as they can get.

    • APaige

      They only want IQ tests to screen out Blacks for the death penalty.

  • thomas edward

    Geez, This college malarkey just won’t go away. Asking a guy in his forties or fifties for this info is just nuts.

    • APaige

      I was born and raised in the Midwest and only took the ACT.

      • There was once a regional dichotomy on standardized tests, and there still is. SAT is basically northeast (College Board HQ: New York), ACT is midwest and intermountain west (ACT Inc HQ: Iowa City, Iowa), and everywhere else is split. It had to do with the colleges in those areas having a bias toward one test over the other for admissions purposes.

        Insofar as actual differences between the tests, back in the olden days when I took them, (having to walk through two feet of snow one way 20 miles in order to take the test, dodging large carnivorous dinosaurs all the way), if my memory serves, the SAT rewarded large vocabularies and test taking strategies, while the ACT rewarded fast thinking, fast information processing ability and a good memory.

  • The obvious dog whistle here is that diplomas, degrees, transcripts and GPAs are unreliable, and they’re unreliable because of affirmative action, grade inflation and course title inflation.

    However, they are wise and clever to say that the SAT scores aren’t everything. For if they did, that would put them clear into the targets of the Feds’ Griggs vs Duke Power shotgun. And as we know, SAT tests are hopelessly and incorrigibly biased, because 30 years go there was one question on the verbal section that required one to know the general anatomy of a yacht in order to answer it correctly.

    • dd121

      I knew what a regatta was when I was in 8th grade and I lived in the mid-west. Next excuse.

      • And it’s a dumb argument, too. Even if you, (not referring to you individually, dd121), didn’t know what a yacht was, much less its anatomy, you probably would have gotten that question wrong. But it was just one question, and the odds are that you weren’t going to get a perfect 1600 anyway. On top of that, you probably got one question right that you shouldn’t have gotten right because you didn’t know but got lucky in a guess, so it all evened out in the end.

        On top of that, it’s been a very long time that the SAT has had these sorts of questions, because the College Board is sensitive to this criticism.

        • dd121

          Furthermore, why would anybody assume that just because a specific piece of knowledge that isn’t a part of your personal “sub-culture” would automatically be unknowable, is beyond stupid. There are all sorts of things we know that we don’t have personal experience with.

          • When I was in high school, studying for the SATs and ACTs, part of the deal was learning the anatomy of a yacht, just in case those kinds of questions came up again. But, by the time I took those tests, 1994 for both of them, yachtgate was already in the past and both the College Board and ACT Inc were making sure their test questions were bias free.

            Unfortunately, I don’t remember the anatomy of a yacht anymore.

          • Marc Zuckurburg

            Maybe this will jog your memory.

            I call her the S.S. Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

            I pity the pauper who owns the little dinky dinghy in the lower left corner.

          • antiquesunlight

            Did God tell you to build it so you could save two of every kind of anima– that is, “illegal immigrant”?

          • sbuffalonative

            Time for a midnight swim with one of these:

          • Marc Zuckurburg

            I hope you and it have a good time, because the full force of the Federal Government protects my yacht. I told Barry to make sure of that.

          • Max

            That’s a big steaming load of ship.

          • Extropico

            I don’t see a spinnaker on your modest yacht, Marc.

    • Ellis Kurtz

      If standardized tests created by whites are “hopelessly and incorrigibly biased”, why don’t black psychologists and sociologists get together to create a test that is free of bias? How hard could it be to create such a test? High school teachers and college professors create tests all the time. Then we could submit the test to representative black and white groups to see how they do. Any guesses as to how it would turn out?

      • Einsatzgrenadier

        Black psychologists have tried creating bias-free intelligence tests. One notable example is the black intelligence test of cultural homogeneity or the BITCH-100, which features items drawn from black American “kulchah”. Apparently, blacks outperform whites on the test. Unfortunately for the test creator, the BITCH-100 is negatively correlated with performance on all tests of human intelligence. Apart from predicting knowledge of black “kulchah”, the test has virtually no predictive validity whatsoever.

        If black psychologists want to prove that standardized IQ testing is culturally biased, they would have to show that blacks perform the same as whites on some task requiring intelligence. So far, they have been unable to do this.

        • dd121

          Why would those people think that a test filled with negro patois was “culture free”. It’s absolutely absurd.

          • sbuffalonative

            Check it out here:

            www susanohanian org/show_commentary.php?id=170

            (add the 2 dots where there are spaces)

        • sbuffalonative

          I found a test on line. I went to urbandictionary to find some of the answers.

          One question was alley apple. Had to look it up. UB says it’s an old term from the 20’s meaning a brick.

          One of the questions was CPT. The answer is time but UD is more specific; colored people’s time.

          Eagle Flies is not listed in UD but the test says it means payday.

          UD list Gas Head as a strong sense of loyalty. The test says it’s a ‘process’.

          UB lists Hully Gully as craps. The test says it’s Watts.

          And so on.

          Other words are not found in UD.

          These words are clearly archaic and localized slang.

          Since UD can’t even define these words I suspect many blacks under the age of 30 have no idea what they mean.

          I can see how words like regatta might have been lost on blacks but IQ tests have largely done away with cultural sensitive words. IQ test rely on reasoning and not localized slang.

          • PvtCharlieSlate

            I never would have guessed that an “alley apple” is in anyway different from a “road apple”.

            “Eagle flies” is a polite version of a VERY old Army expression: payday is when the Eagle $hits.

          • MikeofAges

            There are many versions of this test. The one I got 48 out 50 correct on did not have the arcane slang you describe, just ordinary Northern ghetto street slang.

            One curious bit of slang I came across in the 1960s was the use of the term “grey boy” to indicate a white person. Often, it seemed to be used to convey that the person was part of the interracial scene or subculture, and therefore acceptable.

            Where I think this came from was from photo lab personnel in the military. In color negatives, black people appear bright green, while everyone else is green mottled with grey. In the case of very light skinned people (i.e. pale whites), in a color negative their skin may be entirely grey.

            This can be something useful to know in that it may help you identify who is in the picture. In my mind I can hear it, “No, that ain’t him. That a grey.”

        • MikeofAges

          I got an astronomical score on a recent version of the BITCH test, thanks to my South Side of Chicago upbringing. The creator of the BITCH test (stands for Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity), Robert Williams, wanted to show that it was possible to make an culturally biased test which few white people would do well on.

          Well, even a blind pig finds and acorn every now and then. The BITCH test in its various forms could be used as a serviceable apperceptive test to quickly separate the mentally adequate from the dim bulbs among undereducated ghetto dwellers. The theory here is, the more someone knows, the more likely it is that they also have a higher I.Q. My score on the BITCH test also is indicative of my I.Q. in the highly gifted range along with my exposure to black street culture and street argot.

          Williams, an professor emeritus of psychology at Washington of St. Louis, makes some claims which border on intellectual fraud

          in that they fail to acknowledge that the test he created was, in fact, an apperceptive test which was intended to do exactly what he described it as doing — measure the “cultural homogeneity” of a person raised in a particular subculture, in the presumption that the higher the score, the smarter they were.

          Actually, the Wonderlic test is not so different. The Wonderlic is a hybrid of assessment and apperceptive testing. Its underlying assumption is about the same — that there is a general connection between an individual’s assessed level of learned skills and cultural apperception and innate their intelligence.

          Don’t be too impressed by the “highly gifted” label though. The “gifted” are indulged as when young because they found decorative and promising. If you are”gifted” or highly so, when you get older, you turn into a subgenius and are reviled by everyone. There is more to this than most people know.

          • sbuffalonative

            I just took a short version of the test and I doubt most blacks under 30 would know most of the answers.

          • sbuffalonative

            12. Hattie Mae Johnson is on the Country. She has four children and her
            husband is now in jail for non-support, as he was unemployed and was not
            able to give her any money. Her welfare check is now $286 per month.
            Last night she went out with the highest player in town. If she got
            pregnant, then nine months from now how much more will her welfare check

            a. $80

            b. $2

            c. $35

            d. $150

            e. $100

            A: a

          • MikeofAges

            You are being unfair. the question should be:

            Hattie Johnson, who has seven children already, will receive an additional $148 in cash and $61 in food stamp benefits monthly when her next child is born. By how much will her monthly disposable income increase?

            a. $189

            b. $1463
            c. Not determinable from the information given.
            d. $209

            A. Honey, if “d” is the right answer, why did you put it at the bottom? And don’t call me ‘disposable’!

          • Tarczan

            OMG! I was going to compliment you on your witty acronym, but it’s real! Unbelievable.

          • Tarczan

            From Wikipedia-
            The original sample used in the experiment consisted of 100 white and 100 black St. Louis high school students, aged 16-18 years old – half of them being from low socioeconomic levels and the other half from middle income levels. Williams also had data from two other samples of blacks and whites. These samples included 25 black and 13 white college students from Mississippi and 19 white graduate students from Boston University. Out of the 200 students who participated in the original sample the 100 black students answered 87/100 answers correctly and the whites answered 51/100 questions correctly. In the other samples the results were similar with the black students scores being drastically different than that of the whites.

            If this is true this Williams guy is a freakin’ genius! He has invented a test that blacks not only do well on, they significantly outperform whites!

            Word is he is close to announcing his invention of a trash can blacks will use.

          • MikeofAges

            He seriously misrepresented the type of test he had designed. Probably, he intended the BITCH test as political theater. But any test that measures a person’s intimate knowledge of a particular subculture is going to produce the same wild differences in results. Consider a test that is loaded with terminology that, say, gearheads would be familiar with. Or computer nerds. Or sport fishermen. Or long haul truckers.

            The real value of these type of tests is that they can roughly distinguish between normal people and the dim bulbs. But the people who get the highest scores still are the smartest. Or at least the smartest will generally produce high scores.

      • 1stworlder

        the only merit based test that blacks can beat anyone else at is short distance runs.

    • Max

      Which, if I recall J. Taylor’s comment correctly, the blacks answered about as well as whites but never mind, it was still ON the test and that is sufficient reason to discount the whole thing. It was *intended* to be a racist test.

  • Extropico

    “Putting too much stock in standardized tests can put minority candidates at a disadvantage.”

    That is a disingenuous, hackneyed spin. Ashkenazis and East Asian selective immigrants do better than your average YT.

    What isn’t an old, spurious bromide is the notion that one way immigration of the smartest Asians and Jews actually works to discriminate against Whites who have no similar, reciprocal opportunity in Asia and Israel.

    • Max

      Every time you make a post like that J.E. gets a wart.

  • JackKrak

    There’s no such thing as IQ (except when it’s time to execute someone with a retarded-level IQ), you can’t trust SAT scores (the test is horribly biased) and grades don’t really reflect the abilities of blacks because they learn in a way that can’t be accurately measure by whitey’s oppressive culture (unless a black kid is valedictorian and then it should be on the front page of every paper in the country).

    Got that?

  • So CAL Snowman

    “Putting too much stock in standardized tests can put minority candidates at a disadvantage.”

    Yeah it’s too bad that 40 yard dash times aren’t considered. But then again I do run a 4.4 40 . . . and I have a college degree. Those poor blacks can never catch a break.

  • Samuel_Morton

    In other words, blacks should not be required to know math to work at a bank.

    • JDInSanD

      I’ve worked with some in engineering who weren’t required to know squat about engineering, or about staying awake in a meeting, or about getting along with their co-workers without getting in one-sided shouting matches, or about not blaming racism as an excuse for their non-performance.

      • Tarczan

        But there is no way they would pass the PE test.

  • I would sincerely like to meet the black who scores at the 95th math percentile mentioned in the story. Somehow, I believe him to be a mythical creature, much like Bigfoot, elves, ETs, and shape-shifting human reptilians. Bigfoot might even do better than blacks on the SAT.

    • benvad

      In movies they win Fields medals in math. In reality, I think it may not be so.

      • Max

        By my last check, there had been exactly ONE black chess grandmaster EVER.

        Does anyone have better info?

        • benvad

          Are you sure he wasn’t an Indian wearing a hat that day, with his back turned to you? I find that hard to believe, that a Bantu would have any ability of forward thinking to play chess.

      • That’s “maff”, not “math” where they are concerned.

  • Tarczan

    In 2013, SAT test-takers in the “Black or African-American” category scored an average 431 on the exam’s critical reading section, 429 on math and 418 on writing. White test-takers, meanwhile, scored nearly 100 points higher on average in every section.

    I bet the divide is even higher. Most whites take the SAT, but only the smartest darkies take it.

    • benvad

      What’s the excuse for the descrepancy?

      • willbest

        There was word association that they were blaming, but the SAT guys took that out I thought

    • JDInSanD

      And hispanics are probably being counted as white and dragging our scores down

    • dd121

      Combined 860 excluding the writing part which is bogus anyway. That makes you just smart enough to be a scarecrow.

  • Truth Teller

    Didn’t the EEOC outlaw this kind of thing in 1966? Requiring evidence of ability to do the math necessary for a job Racism!!!!!!

  • Luca

    In the near future, your SAT scores will be enhanced by adding the points for the number of baskets you can make from the free-throw line.

    • Max

      Credit for “afaletic intellgence” is long overdue.

  • richard garyson

    I wish employers could test for IQ as a means to bypass education prerequisites for positions that require raw brainpower, work ethic, and ambition than they do specialized training. I am a white male raised by a single mother, in a dysfunctional, albeit, non-violent environment. I was a late bloomer both physically and emotionally. I never took school seriously, never went college, and never had any positive male role models. I never broke the law or violated the rights of others, but it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I began to take life seriously.

    I have always scored well on IQ tests. I work for a national financial institution and have done well for myself, considering that I only have a high school education. Most of my coworkers have bachelors degrees and very rarely have I ever met one who could stand toe to toe with me, intellectually. However, my misspent youth belies that.

    Most higher positions require a degree, but only as a means to filter out unqualified applicants. I think an IQ test would be much more efficient and fairer means for that.

    • dd121

      You’re one of the lucky ones. Almost all high paying jobs are credentialed or require various degrees. That’s too bad, really. There will always be smart people like you and Rush Limbaugh who just went to high school. Opportunities for people like you become fewer and fewer every year. Many jobs that used to require only a high school degree now require at least a bachelors to get in the door.

    • MikeofAges

      You’ve touched on something. Keep in mind, however, since the 1960s college degrees have become more prevalent. But the same federal government which successfully sought to make college more accessible even to the very poor, through another branch, through the fiat of judiciary, endeavored to make those degrees worthless. The Supreme Court in the early 1970s effectively banned aptitude testing. The ban became statute law in the early 1990s, before Bill Clinton took office.

      Considering that a civil right lawsuit can ruin a business, no business is going to so much as attempt to subjectively assess the aptitude of its job applicants, outside of high tech. That is why job-related degrees even for ordinary entry level jobs have become the norm. The affirmative action system is the nexus through which everything else flows, through its impact on matters bearing no discernible relation to issue of minority outreach. The eye that alters, alters all, poet William Blake.

    • Max

      Your point is well made but even today, four nominal years of schooling is still probably a better filter than two hours of testing. As bad as some college curricula may have become, it is not reasonable to expect that a single substitute test would not devolve in the same manner since they are known to be disadvantageous to certain demographics.

  • Spartacus

    “Putting too much stock in standardized tests can put minority candidates at a disadvantage.”


    Anything that requires a minimally functional brain automatically puts dark-skins at a disadvantage.

  • Northerner

    I think American standardized tests will eventually be removed entirely, or dumbed down to the point where they’re a complete joke and become meaningless.

    • dd121

      They’ve already been dumbed down.

  • IstvanIN

    Would they accept my GREs if I can not find the piece of granite my SATs are carved on?

    • MikeofAges

      No. Not with a wolfpack outside the door ready to tear them apart over the smallest miscue.

  • Max

    This will become illegal at some point.

    I have already seen state legislation proposed recently to bar employers from asking if a candidate has a criminal record because it “keeps otherwise qualified candidates from consideration”. I take “otherwise qualified” as code for AA applicants. Not law yet but they are clearly moving in that direction.

  • Moe Moe

    This is bull…the powers that be have been doing away with SAT scores as a measure for college admission for years. They’re more concerned these days with what a kid has done to ‘up’ his ‘diversity quotient’ as I like to call it. How much he volunteered at homeless shelters, joined politically correct clubs at school, stuff like that. Blacks traditionally score lower on SAT and similar tests (as mentioned above). This hurts their chances of getting into colleges, so of course it helps them when the playing field is leveled with the smarter white kids by not including or weighing less their test scores…

    • The latest trend is for schools not to require students to report their ACT/SAT. That has a double whammy positive effect for the schools: Those applicants that willingly report their scores will be higher scorers, (people like to brag, after all), and those that don’t report scored poorly or didn’t take the tests at all because they knew they wouldn’t, the vibrant, diverse crowd. This way, the school can report that their incoming frosh class has an SAT average of 1500 and is 40% black at the same time.

  • JDInSanD

    Yes, I took it back when there was no such thing as a box for hispanic, mexican or puerto rican on the SAT or any other form for that matter.

  • Extropico

    You are adducing an outlier of a temporary job in marketing as an exemplar for your position.

    America takes in over a million permanent immigrants legally, per annum, plus illegals, most of whom are not European founding stock.

    To give you an idea of the pressure that places on traditional Americans, understand that since China has 4 times the population of America, an analogous migration into China would involve 4 million non-Asian immigrants per annum, with each non-Asian immigrant entitled to racial preferences against the Chinese people.

    Think about that for a while. You wouldn’t recognize the place in a single generation.