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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.

Student taking a test

Michael Arlen Davis

President of Canobie Films, is the co-producer of “The Test & the Art of Thinking."

Michael Davis

Michael Arlen Davis produced Canobie Films' documentary “Hats Off" and assisted on its documentary: “Martha & Ethel”. He served as a director/producer on The Test & The Art of Thinking.

Jyll Johnstone

President of Canobie Films, is the co-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 Location Name Theater/Presenter City State Event Link
Mar 18, 2018 - 13:00 Downtown Cinemas 888 Marsh Street SLO Film Fest San Luis Obispo CA DETAILS


Screening Start Location Name Theater/Presenter City State Event Link
Mar 16, 2018 - 19:30 Downtown Cinemas 888 Marsh Street SLO Film Fest San Luis Obispo CA DETAILS
Mar 17, 2018 - 13:45 Downtown Cinemas 888 Marsh Street SLO Film Fest San Luis Obispo CA DETAILS


Student taking a test

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.


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