Fifteen years ago, Frey and Detterman established that the SAT (and later, with Koenig, the ACT) was substantially correlated with measures of general cognitive ability and could be used as a proxy measure for intelligence (Frey and Detterman, 2004; Koenig, Frey, and Detterman, 2008). Since that finding, replicated many times and cited extensively in the literature, myths about the SAT, intelligence, and academic achievement continue to spread in popular domains, online, and in some academic administrators. This paper reviews the available evidence about the relationships among the SAT, intelligence, and academic achievement, dispels common myths about the SAT, and points to promising future directions for research in the prediction of academic achievement.
When I was a first-year graduate student, my advisor was contacted by someone with an interesting problem. A person had suffered a head injury, and there was some indication that the individual’s intelligence had been negatively impacted by the injury. However, the only premorbid measure of intellectual functioning that existed for this person was the SAT, and, while many suspected the SAT was a de facto intelligence test, the literature in the area was surprisingly thin. In two studies, we found that SAT scores correlated up to 0.8 with measures of fluid reasoning ability and g, and as highly with traditional intelligence test scores as scores on those tests did with each other. Frey and Detterman established that the SAT (and, with Koenig, the ACT) was g-loaded, could be used as a proxy measure for intelligence, and could be converted to an IQ scale with a simple equation [1,2]. In addition to the application of estimating premorbid intelligence, we reasoned that researchers would be interested in establishing this relationship, since it could eliminate time-consuming test administration when they were looking for a measure of intelligence in the context of larger studies (e.g., establishing relationships between intelligence and other traits/abilities). In other words, in answer to the question of this special issue, we found that the SAT measures intelligence.