It’s important to be realistic about what such tests say and don’t say about the individuals who take them. I once did a little routine for a classroom of SAT-proud college freshmen based upon my experience of once riding in an elevator with a half-dozen members of the New York Knicks.
Talking about height made it easier to make an analogy about a subject often shrouded in obfuscation. A one-time high school basketball player, I’m probably around the 90th percentile height-wise. Among NBA players, I was the shortest man around — an oddly uncomfortable experience.
It’s the same with every other measurable human trait, intelligence included. Chart them, and you end up with a bell curve. Almost everybody’s clustered near the mean. The practical differences in intellectual ability between, say, the 75th and 95th percentiles aren’t half as great as people pretend.
Real genius is too rare for a crude instrument like the SAT to measure. You can have verbal and math scores in the 700s without being very smart at all.
So your kid’s scores are interesting, but they hardly add up to fate or destiny, either way.
Gene Lyons is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He can be reached at email@example.com.