Opposition to Using the SAT as an Admissions Test for the Society

Chris Cole

 

In the last issue Ron Hoeflin proposes that we admit Brian Schwartz based upon his score of 1593 on the SAT.  While Ron has chosen to propose only that we admit Brian, his arguments are based upon the acceptability of the SAT as an admissions test.  I therefore will oppose this proposition as if it were a proposal that we accept the SAT.

 

I oppose this proposal for the following reasons.

 

  1. The Mega Society Constitution states that we are “an organization of people who have scored at the one-in-a-million level on a test of general intelligence which is credibly claimed by its authors to be able to discriminate at this level.”  The ETS makes no such claim about the SAT; it even eschews claiming it is an intelligence test.  If you’re a strict constructionist, that will be enough to oppose the proposal.

 

  1. I think we can all agree that the SAT does not contain any questions that require one-in-a-million intelligence to answer.  How then can it tell that someone has such intelligence?  Only if asking many mid-range questions somehow boosts the range of the test.  Where is the proof that this is possible?  We know from the example of coin flipping that merely showing that the scores are distributed in a bell curve is not a proof.  Indeed, as discussed in the next reason, we have evidence that there can be no such proof, because it is not so.

 

  1. In a previous issue I published the results of a simulation showing that because of the errors of test taking a mid-range test will have a handful of lucky people getting a perfect score.  Ron has argued that there is something wrong with the simulation because the raw scores do not show the same bell curve that the ETS publishes for the SAT.  This is because the ETS smoothes the raw score into what they call the “scaled” score, which they purposefully ensure has a bell curve distribution.  This paper contains details of this non-linear scaling: http://www.ets.org/research/dload/RR-02-04.pdf.  Incidentally, this paper contains graphs of scores that look a lot like my simulation.  To repeat the result of the simulation: the most intelligent person has less than a 1% chance of getting the highest raw score.  No smoothing scheme can fix that.  The SAT is not a high-range test.

 

  1. If the Society did not have another method for admission, it might be argued that the Society will die off if we don’t find some way of admitting people.  But we have recently voted to accept the Titan Test for admissions.  If Brian or anyone else wants to qualify for membership, they should take the Titan Test.  That (or something like it) is how the rest of us were admitted.