Gap Between Grades and SAT/ACT Scores

blur codes coding 577585 scaled Summit PrepInstead of writing a typical post, I am providing a link to a podcast in which Brian Eufinger, co-founder of Edison Prep in Atlanta, GA, breaks down how and why some students can get seemingly good grades and then get surprisingly low SAT or ACT scores. In addition to simply being a great person and a friend of mine, Brian is a self-professed data nerd. I personally love his detailed analyses, and at the bottom of this post I have provided a link to both his blog and another podcast about college scholarships and admissions in which he was interviewed.

He starts off with a not unusual real-life example: A student with a 4.25 GPA gets a 20 composite on his ACT. I hope you enjoy the episode.


Episode 28 of “TESTS and the rest”: The Reality of Grade Inflation

(You can also find it on whatever platform you get your favorite podcasts.)


A few of my takeaways from the episode:ian dooley DuBNA1QMpPA unsplash scaled Summit Prep

Wide-spread grade inflation across the U.S. has caused a general disconnect between perception and reality. Is an “A” a good grade? The answer: maybe. Whether an “A” is good depends not only on the quality of the school (as it always has) but now even more so on how much grade inflation there is at the school and across the country.

Here were some of the statistics shared:

  • In 1998, 39% of high school students had an A average.
  • Eighteen years later, by 2016, 47% of high school students had an A average.
  • Across that same time span, average SAT scores declined.

Thus, by standardized criteria (not that the SAT is flawless, but it’s at least a decent indicator), students’ grades have gotten better but their proficiency has fallen. The explanation: grade inflation.


The result:

  1. ricardo gomez angel hlmuzhcpCkY unsplash scaled Summit PrepThere is so little difference between most students’ unweighted GPAs that standardized test scores are, in some respects, even more important for determining the merit of a student’s academic achievements.
  2. By 2019, it’s very possible that 50% of students now have an A average. The average student will get the average standardized test score. On the ACT, that’s a 20. But, when an A student gets a 20 on the ACT, they are typically very shocked, confused, and hurt – parents even more so because they grew up when the average student had a B or even C average. Thus, the disconnect: an A average equates to a 20 on the ACT? On average across the country, as shocking as it might sound, yes.


Action Steps:

  • The first step is understanding the reality of grade inflation. Done.
  • The second is realizing that standardized tests evaluate students primarily on teachable content. Thus, students can learn that content and dramatically improve their scores. Though the tests do not pick up the potential of every student, most students’ standardized scores will validate the accuracy of their academic achievements and show colleges that the student will be able to succeed at the schools to which they are applying.

As I tell all my students: you can choose your SAT and ACT score, as long as you put in the hard-work to achieve it.

nick fewings 7cLIUI6rVDc unsplash scaled Summit Prep


Works Cited:

Brian’s blog:

Podcast in which Brian talks about college scholarships and admissions:


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