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Top Posts of 2012 #2: Keeping Standardized Tests in Perspective

In the few days before 2012 ends and 2013 begins, we’ll be looking back at some of our top posts from the past year, starting with number five and counting down to number one. If you missed these articles the first time around, now’s your time to see why we’ve found these particular pieces so compelling.

Why a Weak SAT Score Didn’t Kill My College Dreams
by Phillip Dube

It’s not that standardized test scores, like the SAT or GRE, aren’t important, it’s just that they don’t have to make or break your college dreams. That’s what Phillip concluded in his post about what happened when his SAT scores didn’t meet his expectations.

Read it: "Why a Weak SAT Score Didn’t Kill My College Dreams"

"I thought it was unfair for my college preparedness to be judged on the four hours of mental torture that is the SAT, and on a test result that belied my actual abilities," he wrote.
My high school transcript was stellar, my essays were well-written (so said my EducationUSA advisor), and I had dedicated a lot of effort and energy to making my community a better place.

I don’t know for sure that my SAT score is what hurt my Amherst application, but I felt that surely all those achievements were worth something. Did they not reflect my potential to succeed at an American college better than the SAT exam?

Phillip eventually applied and was admitted to a test-optional school that didn’t require him to submit an SAT or ACT score at all. "Without the option of leaving that score off my application ..., I’m not sure I would have had the opportunity to study here," he said.

It’s good news for anyone whose test day didn’t go exactly as they had planned. Anyone like Shree, who chronicled his disappointing SAT experience in one of our most unique posts of 2012.

Shree's test day, he wrote, went something like this:

Read it: "An SAT Disappointment Story in Emoticons"

Graduate students struggling over the GRE can take heart as well, as Yun learned in another of our most informative 2012 posts.

Read it: "The Surprising Thing I Learned About the GRE"

Yun attended an information session for her top choice graduate program, at which one attendee asked about the importance of GRE scores in the admission process. Yun recalled:
The representative from the school responded that a bad GRE score would not disqualify you from applying to the program and, likewise, a really high score doesn’t automatically make you qualified for admission.

In other words, the GRE is not the standard by which admissions officers decide if you are qualified for their school.

It was a surprising revelation for her, since Yun's friends in China had fretted over their GRE scores and put a lot of pressure on themselves to achieve a high result. But, Yun wrote, "I realized the key was to go in with a plain heart – not to be overwhelmed by the pressure from my peers, and equally not to underestimate the difficulty of the section."

"To all of you applying to grad school this year," she concluded, "I hope you get admitted to your ideal school, with or without a perfect GRE score!"

And if you don’t, keep the faith. In 2012 we also heard some amazing and inspiring stories about facing rejection and overcoming the odds.

Read it: "Battling Rejection? 5 Amazing Stories to Get Inspired"

Other top posts of 2012:
#5: Navigating and Defeating Negative Stereotypes
#4: The Surprising Links Between Food and Identity
#3: The Cultural Nuances of Language
#1: Taking Responsibility is the Key to Academic Success