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Parents, educators, students and college admissions professionals all intimately understand the financial, emotional and intellectual burden of the SAT/ACT—tests that are not only an integral part of the college admissions process for most American students, but also can be a rite of passage for teenagers in the United States. Even as adults, few of us forget our score, or how we felt about what it took to earn it.

The Test & the Art of Thinking traces the history and evolution of the SAT/ACT as a major player on the pathway to higher education in America, and it documents its current power in our culture. In so doing, it strives to support individuals who are embarking on the road to college, by examining what the SAT/ACT measures and means, and asking a range of educational leaders, admissions professionals and stakeholders in the test—from tutors to parents to test designers—to grapple with the test’s use, ramifications and future.

Film Stills

Michael Arlen Davis

Vice President of Canobie Films, Director/Producer of "The Test & The Art of Thinking"

Michael Davis

Michael Arlen Davis was a Producer on Canobie Films' production “Hats Off.” He assisted Director/Producer Jyll Johnstone on Canobie Films' "Martha And Ethel," and is the Director/Producer of "The Test & The Art of Thinking."

Jyll Johnstone

President of Canobie Films and Producer of "The Test & the Art of Thinking"

Jyll Johnstone

Jyll’s three previous documentaries celebrate often-overlooked women in the realm of culture and the arts. "Martha & Ethel", "Throwing Curves", and "Hats Off" have been featured at the Sundance Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival and the film festivals of Palm Springs, Toronto, San Francisco, Bologna, London and Hong Kong, as well as a variety of museums.

Currently, Jyll is directing a documentary film called "Queen of Belvedere” about an aged el Salvadoran housekeeper laboring in the multi-million dollar homes of an affluent San Francisco suburb. She is also directing a modernistic docuseries for TV about the life, work, and struggles of female NYC artist Libby Schoettle, called “BeMused”. "Queen of Belvedere” and “BeMused” are slated for 2018/9 releases.

Sherry Daniel

Co-Producer The Test & the Art of Thinking

Sherry Daniel

Sherry Daniel is an independent documentary filmmaker and producer based in San Francisco with more than 25 years’ experience in film, television, commercials and new media. She began her film career working on documentaries for National Geographic, PBS, and Pearl Jam before transitioning to creative direction and brand development. Daniel is currently directing a new documentary about an innovative educator in the Boston metropolitan area. She holds a B.A. from Brown University.

From Director/Producer, Michael Arlen Davis:

We were motivated to embark upon this project while watching our two daughters engage with the SAT/ACT college admissions exams.

Our eldest had been a diligent student throughout her high school career, but whose experience on this form of testing was quite unexpected.

When the time came for our youngest to start, we thought as parents we would attempt to prepare her ourselves.

We started taking practice SAT sections, and couldn’t help but notice the unusual framework and tenor of the test. This prompted conversations with neighbors, friends and local educational professionals. We began exploring the ‘testing’ literature, which further confirmed that our curiosity had not been in vain, nor in isolation.

We found this to be a subject of curiosity, still somewhat unexplored in a documentary format, and there was information to be shared that would be useful to many. We began with interviews of local students, test prep professionals and high school guidance counselors, all with a keen sense of discovery. Our goal was to communicate context about the nature and purpose of these exams, from a wide point of view, so that anyone could understand that they were not alone in this process, in their perception or their experience.

As our information developed, testing experts, psychometricians, authors and college admissions officers became more open to interviews and participation.

Whereas the students, their parents and test prep tutors provide a real-time perspective on the test, the academic professionals convey an overarching portrayal of a bigger picture, and viewed over a longer time frame.

We believe the film gives common voice to many of the issues that the tests engender and we hope it facilitates broad and varied conversation.

Michael Arlen Davis



Screening Start Screening End Location Name Theater/Presenter City State Event Link
11/01/18 - 06:30 PM 11/01/18 - 08:30 PM Brown University Auditorium - 85 Watermark Street ENRICHri Providence Rhode Island DETAILS
11/07/18 - 07:00 PM 11/07/18 - 08:30 PM The Gallery @ Villageworks Open Door Education Acton Massachusetts DETAILS
11/30/18 - 12:00 PM 11/30/18 - 01:30 PM Private Screening Ivy Educational Services Fanwood New Jersey DETAILS
01/23/19 - 07:30 PM 01/23/19 - 09:00 PM Sandown Public Library Sandown Public Library Sandown New Hampshire DETAILS
03/14/19 - 07:30 PM 03/14/19 - 09:00 PM Deerfield High School Deerfield Parent Network Deerfield Illinois DETAILS
04/24/19 - 07:00 PM 04/24/19 - 08:30 PM Miller Creek Middle School Marin Waldorf School San Rafael California DETAILS


Screening Start Screening End Location Name Theater/Presenter City State Event Link
03/16/18 - 07:30 PM 03/16/18 - 08:55 PM Downtown Cinemas 888 Marsh Street SLO Film Fest San Luis Obispo California DETAILS
04/08/18 - 08:30 PM 04/08/18 - 10:00 PM Private Screening GPACAC/MOACAC Annual Conference Kansas City Missouri DETAILS
04/20/18 - 12:00 PM 04/20/18 - 01:30 PM Private Screening Harvard Graduate School of Education Office of Student Affairs Cambridge Massachusetts DETAILS
04/27/18 - 02:00 PM 05/03/18 - 07:00 PM The Landmark at 57 West Landmark Theatres New York New York DETAILS
05/02/18 - 01:00 PM 05/05/18 - 05:00 PM Gateway Film Center Gateway Film Center Columbus Ohio DETAILS
05/02/18 - 07:00 PM 05/02/18 - 07:00 PM Ray Stark Family Theatre USC School of Cinematic Arts Los Angeles California DETAILS
05/04/18 - 12:00 PM 05/10/18 - 01:00 PM Jacob Burns Film Center Jacob Burns Film Center Pleasantville New York DETAILS
05/04/18 - 02:30 PM 05/10/18 - 07:30 PM Laemmle Music Hall Theater Laemmle Theaters Beverly Hills California DETAILS
05/07/18 - 07:00 PM 05/07/18 - 07:00 PM Palace 9 Cinema Merrill Theatres Burlington Vermont DETAILS
05/08/18 - 07:00 PM 05/08/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Chez Artiste Landmark Theatres Denver Colorado DETAILS
05/08/18 - 07:00 PM 05/08/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Aquarius Landmark Theatres Palo Alto California DETAILS
05/08/18 - 07:00 PM 05/08/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Lagoon Landmark Theatres Minneapolis Minnesota DETAILS
05/09/18 - 07:30 PM 05/09/18 - 07:30 PM Cinema Arts Center Cinema Arts Center Huntington New York DETAILS
05/10/18 - 07:00 PM 05/10/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Opera Plaza Landmark Theatres San Francisco California DETAILS
05/15/18 - 07:00 PM 05/15/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Shattuck Landmark Theatres Berkeley California DETAILS
05/16/18 - 07:00 PM 05/16/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Magnolia Landmark Theatres Dallas Texas DETAILS
05/18/18 - 01:00 PM 05/24/18 - 01:45 PM Coolidge Corner Theatre Coolidge Corner Theatre Foundation Brookline Massachusetts DETAILS
05/21/18 - 07:00 PM 05/21/18 - 07:00 PM Midtown Art Cinema Landmark Theatres Atlanta Georgia DETAILS
05/29/18 - 07:00 PM 05/29/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark E Street Cinema Landmark Theatres Washington D.C. DETAILS
05/29/18 - 07:00 PM 05/29/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Bethesda Row Landmark Theatres Bethesda Maryland DETAILS
06/06/18 - 10:30 AM 06/06/18 - 11:15 AM Nelly Goletti Theatre; Marist 2018 Super Conference NYSACAC, NEACAC, & Marist College Poughkeepsie New York DETAILS
06/06/18 - 10:30 AM 06/06/18 - 12:00 PM Private Screening NEACAC and NYSACAC Super Conference, Coming Together Conference Poughkeepsie New York DETAILS
06/07/18 - 05:00 PM 06/07/18 - 05:00 PM Living Room Theater - Boca Raton Living Room Theater Boca Raton Florida DETAILS
06/07/18 - 07:00 PM 06/07/18 - 07:00 PM Living Room Theater - Portland Living Room Theaters Portland Oregon DETAILS
06/15/18 - 01:00 PM 06/15/18 - 02:30 PM Private Screening Castilleja School Palo Alto California DETAILS
06/15/18 - 07:00 PM 06/21/18 - 07:00 PM The Music Hall The Music Hall Portsmouth New Hampshire DETAILS
06/27/18 - 06:30 PM 06/27/18 - 06:30 PM Nantucket Dreamland Theater Nantucket Dreamland Foundation Nantucket Massachusetts DETAILS
06/30/18 - 07:00 PM 06/30/18 - 09:00 PM Long Island University Post Campus AERO 2018 Conference Brookville New York DETAILS
07/09/18 - 03:00 PM 07/09/18 - 04:30 PM Private Screening Choate Rosemary Hall College Counseling Office Wallingford Connecticut DETAILS
07/12/18 - 12:00 PM 07/12/18 - 01:30 PM Private Screening Rider University Lawrenceville New Jersey DETAILS
07/30/18 - 08:00 AM 07/30/18 - 09:30 AM Private Screening University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign Urbana Illinois DETAILS
08/08/18 - 10:00 AM 08/08/18 - 11:30 AM Private Screening University of Denver Denver Colorado DETAILS
08/16/18 - 02:00 PM 08/16/18 - 03:30 PM Private Screening Miami University Oxford Ohio DETAILS
09/05/18 - 03:00 PM 09/06/18 - 04:40 PM DocUtah - International Documentary Film Festival (Dixie State Univ. Campus; films will be shown at RedCliffs Cinema 1 and 4) DocUtah St. George Utah DETAILS
09/17/18 - 06:30 PM 09/17/18 - 08:00 PM Nicolet High School Community Room REDgen Glendale Wisconsin DETAILS
09/28/18 - 06:30 PM 09/28/18 - 08:00 PM Private Screening - NACAC 2018 National Conference NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling ) Salt Lake City Utah DETAILS


SAT and ACT flunk out in documentary 'The Test & the Art of Thinking' | Robert Abele

Los Angeles Times - May 03, 2018

Review: ‘The Test and the Art of Thinking’ Is About A) The SAT | Ken Jaworowski

The New York Times - Apr 26, 2018

“The Test & the Art of Thinking”: The Problem With College Entrance Exams | Daphne Howland

The Village Voice - Apr 24, 2018

Spreading the Word on Test Optional, Holistic Admissions | Thomas Coakley

Worcester Polytecnic Institute - May 31, 2018

The Test And The Art Of Thinking (Review) | Bobby LePire

Film Threat - May 21, 2018

Steve Cohen, co-author of Getting In: College Admissions in the Digital Age, and currently an op-ed writer and attorney writes: “I hit the cutting room floor, and never made it into Michael Arlen Davis' well-made documentary, "The Test." (It didn't help that I disagreed with the producer-director's POV.) But I thought the other side was worth writing about in this piece.” |

The Hill - May 21, 2018

The Test & The Art Of Thinking | Carol Kaufman Segal

Carol's Culture Corner - May 09, 2018

A Bucket of Supposed Truths at the WSJ about the SAT and ACT | Steven Ma is the International Education Liaison for the California Department of Education and founder of ThinkTank Learning, a global college prep consulting company. He was interviewed for "The Test & the Art of Thinking." In this article, Mr. Ma responds to the March 8th article in the Wall Street Journal by Nathan Kuncel and Paul Sackett: "The Truth About the SAT and ACT”.

Moments with Steven Ma - May 07, 2018

Radio Interview with Michael Arlen Davis On KCRW 89.9 FM’s “Press Play” with Madeleine Brand |

KCRW Radio "Press Play" - May 04, 2018

The Cowards and Heroes of the SAT and ACT | Sara Harberson

- Apr 30, 2018

Film Asks If SAT Tests Fail or Help Students | Esha Sarai

VOA News - Apr 27, 2018

Let's hear it for the (end of the) SAT, as Michael Arlen Davis' new doc, THE TEST AND THE ART OF THINKING, opens theatrically | James van Maanen

TrustMovies - Apr 24, 2018

In Brief:The Test & The Art of Thinking (2017) | Steve Kopian

unseen films - Apr 24, 2018

Abramorama Acquires Worldwide Rights to The Test & The Art of Thinking | Michael Arlen Davis

Canobie Films - Mar 12, 2018

Exam Documentary ‘The Test and the Art of Thinking’ Gets Release | Dave McNary

Variety - Mar 01, 2018


School campus

Enter our RESOURCES section to learn more about the SAT/ACT, including the new version (SAT) that debuted in 2016.

See the latest test prep and college admissions news, and submit a question.

Follow the tests' history from their origins as an experimental exam given to 8,000 students in 1926 to its widespread adoption as an admissions tool that has played a curucial role in sorting applicants to America's colleges.

Examine controversies related to validity, fairness, coachability, and security of the test, as well as questions raised about the many ways in which test scores are used.

Learn about the rapidly growing test optional admissions movement, and the recently-implemented use of the SAT or the ACT by states to measure student mastery of the high school curriculum.


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Community & Campus Screenings: Contact Carla Fleisher at Film Sprout at or (646) 688-4488.