This is What Matters More than My SAT Score

So let me ask you something. And it’s a slightly bizarre question, so stick with me. If, and I say “if”, there was a way to pre-determine whether your child would be born with a high EQ (Emotional Quotient) or a high IQ (Intelligence Quotient), which would you chose? My only stipulation here is that you can only pick one trait. It’s an either/or question and I make the rules.

What is more important than an SAT score?

Don’t rush. Take a minute and really think it through before you answer. Because I realize there are a lot of factors in play here so there’s a lot to consider.

In the meantime, while you’re processing, let me clarify what I’m asking. According to Forbes online, IQ tests are used as an indicator of logical reasoning ability and technical intelligence, i.e., how book smart you are. On the flip side are the EQ tests that measure your awareness of your own feelings and those of others. They rate how you regulate these feelings in yourself and others, how you use emotions that are appropriate to a situation, self-motivation, and your ability to build relationships. I know it’s a lot, but it’s really the essence of who we are as a person.

Then there are the secondary tests like MQ or Moral Quotient and BQ, which is Body Quotient. But I’m really only focusing on IQ and EQ at the moment. And I’m doing that simply because I have a word count limitation here and that would throw me over my max for sure. Because I tend to give the news and the weather, so I’m trying to use some restraint.

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So what I’m asking, now that you’re totally versed in the two types of categories, is for you to decide which one you’d want your child to have. This is, of course, assuming that you could pre-order your kids’ traits ahead of time. I know, can you imagine?! And why are we playing this little game in the first place? Simple. I’ve noticed, at least in my own limited little world, a real emphasis being put on IQ and not enough being put on the EQ side. On, you know, who we are as people.

With a daughter in her junior year of high school, I’ve become acutely aware of how much grades and standardized test scores matter. I also happen to work in the school system, so I see, up close, the kind of stress kids are under to perform. Even at the lower elementary school level.

As a kid who almost always tested poorly on any kind of standardized test—including and especially the SATs—I feel strongly that academics alone are not a true indicator of a person’s ability or potential.

[Read Next: SAT Test Prep: Did You See What the Experts at College Board Say Now?]

I mean, I was always a hard worker. I understood, from very early on, that you get out of something exactly what you put in. And the reality is, I busted my butt in school and that’s how I did well. I worked hard. Very hard. But it didn’t come easy to me in the way it did for so many of my friends who didn’t need to wear open-toed shoes to math class so they could use their fingers and toes to solve their equations. I was the kid who stayed after school and did the extra credit and relied heavily on my organizational skills to carry me through. Those were my advantages. And I exploited them as much as I possibly could.

See, I figured it out, at a very young age, that it was the core people skills that would carry me through life. And that’s precisely because I didn’t have the same learning style or aptitude that the Ivy Leaguers had. But I think, all said and done, it’s fair to say that I’ve done alright very much in spite of the fact that I’m really not all that smart. Look, the truth is, I tanked my SATs. I don’t even remember if I cleared 1000. Two hundred of which I’m sure I got just for signing my name. I just never had the mental juice for aptitude tests. They’re just not in my wheel house.

Personally, I think that raw intelligence is grossly overrated. So my no-hesitation answer to my own original question would be a high EQ all the way. Now don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be like Madonna and have an IQ of 140 and have a shiny MENSA membership card in my wallet. Not to mention the money and the personal trainer.

But at the end of the day, that intelligence quotient is not what I really think you need the most to be successful in life. It’s important, no doubt, but a high IQ is not the end-all-be-all. Because, when you really break it down, having one offers absolutely no guarantee that you’ll lead a successful life. And while I totally get that it enables certain doors to open that may otherwise stay closed, particularly in the professional world, a high IQ isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be able to keep your high-profile, high-paying job. Because if you can’t relate with people, or collaborate, or build and maintain relationships, then you’re not gonna be in your sweet new job for very long. Because people won’t like you and you’ll get fired. Oh, excuse me, you’ll get “downsized”. And that’s because having the people skills you need to function in the mainstream are a good, solid fifty percent of the equation.

It’s like trying to walk around all day with only one sock and one shoe. Can you do it? Sure. But it’s certainly not going to be easy or comfortable or keep you on stable ground. And eventually, the further you travel like that, the more obvious it will be that it just doesn’t work right without the other shoe. They go together for a reason; because the two pieces together work in tandem.

Now it’s no big secret that I like data. Not because I’m good with numbers, because I’m not, I can barely leave a proper tip. I like them because numbers are terrific for validating things. Especially things I’m trying to prove. So I found this Carnegie Institute of Technology study that shows that 85 percent of a person’s financial success is due to skills in “human engineering,” which includes your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. And, shockingly, only 15 percent is due to technical knowledge. Kinda makes you think, doesn’t it? Kinda gives what I’m talking about a little more credence.

Look, I’m really only saying all this because I see, first hand, the emphasis that’s put on test scores and grades when those things alone shouldn’t be the only determining factors in where a kid goes to school or to who hires them in the professional world.

All I’m asking is that we try, and maybe we’re starting right here and now, together, to remember that there are other equally as important pieces of the whole pie. I don’t know about you, but at the end of the day, I want my daughters to be good problem solvers, good friends, good empathizers, and just generally solid people. Because those things are the true measures of a person. Wouldn’t you think?


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About Lisa Sugarman

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. She writes the nationally syndicated opinion column It Is What It Is and is the author of How to Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids and Be Ok with It--Real Tips & Strategies for Parents of Today's Gen Z KidsUntying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free, and LIFE: It Is What It Is, available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores everywhere. Read and discuss all her columns and books at Or, find them on GrownAndFlown, Thrive Global, Hot Moms Club, LittleThings, MommingHubb, More Content Now, Wickedlocal, This Mama Wines, and Care(dot)com. She's also the founder and moderator of The Vomit Booth, the popular Facebook Group where parents can go to bond, share, and connect over the madness of raising kids in today's world.

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