I hate to say it, (being an advocate against the test), but the SAT is probably the most important test that you will ever take. The only harder tests that I can think of are those needed to attend grad school (GRE, MCAT, etc). Although the SAT mainly measures how well one can take the test, it does provide a standard to compare applicants in addition to their grades. Grades are important, but the SAT is just as important (from an academic standpoint) to gaining acceptance to the college of your choice. What is the value of the SAT?-- Simple, unlike most high school classes that use different textbooks and cover different material, the SAT is the same across the entire country. So far, along with the ACT, subject tests, and AP tests, the SAT is the only truly universal test. Everyone takes the same test on the same day, making it the most direct way to compare two applicants. That being said, the SAT has major problems.
The SAT affects even children, who are trained from birth to take standardized tests. Teenagers often spend important years of their lives studying and preparing for this one test because it has such an enormous weight on their college applications. The SAT has changed adolescent life into a two part experience, studying before the test and life after the test. The test is of course the pivotal deciding point of one's future. It seems entirely unfair that one test can make or break a person and set him or her up for a lifetime of success or, I hate to say it, failure. But it does. A mere 200 points can mean the difference between Ivy League and a local state college. What is worse is that the SAT does not even measure intelligence, but how good a student is at test taking. One can score an almost perfect score while at the same time maintaining a C average in school. How is this fair to "A" students who just are not as good at taking standardized tests?
Colleges say that they care more about a student's grades in school, and this is nice to think about, but in reality, they don't. No two people have exactly the same teachers or the same classes, so grades cannot be compared as effectively. Every student has a different experience in school and covers different material, even people in the same class in the same school. Due to this, colleges cannot say that an A in one class is worth more than a B in another because they are all different. For example, one year of Biology might have been astronomically more difficult with a particular teacher than previous years, even though the same material was covered. So is an "A" worth more, even though the class covered the same concepts? Colleges cannot directly compare students with grades as they can with the SAT. The SAT is the SAME for everyone, which makes it a more reliable source than hundreds of different classes.
However, colleges realize that they cannot judge students solely on their SAT scores, as it is just one test and it does not measure intelligence very well, which is why grades and extra curricular activities play an important part in admissions as well. I would argue that the SAT is about 40% of a college student's application with the other 40% grades and 20% extra curriculars. The extra curriculars, however, put a human face on an applicant which is otherwise just numbers and grades, so it is very important to find activities that you enjoy doing and stick to them, as I stated in Activities Outside of School. The SAT makes the difference between students who have similar grades and outside activities and it can really help you stand out among a group of very qualified students. It is not the most important part of applying to college, but students should take time to study for the SAT at least a few months before test day. In short, no one likes the SAT and it is not fair, but study for it because it's a necessary evil.