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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 Theater/Presenter Location Name City State Event Link
05/21/19 - 08:00 PM 2019 Super Conference - PNACAC, RMACAC, and WACAC Sun Devil Stadium - 500 E Veterans Way Tempe Arizona DETAILS
05/28/19 - 10:00 AM Western Reserve Academy Private screening Hudson Ohio DETAILS


Screening Start Theater/Presenter Location Name City State Event Link
03/16/18 - 07:30 PM SLO Film Fest Downtown Cinemas 888 Marsh Street San Luis Obispo California DETAILS
04/08/18 - 08:30 PM GPACAC/MOACAC Annual Conference Private Screening Kansas City Missouri DETAILS
04/20/18 - 12:00 PM Harvard Graduate School of Education Office of Student Affairs Private Screening Cambridge Massachusetts DETAILS
04/27/18 - 02:00 PM Landmark Theatres The Landmark at 57 West New York New York DETAILS
05/02/18 - 01:00 PM Gateway Film Center Gateway Film Center Columbus Ohio DETAILS
05/02/18 - 07:00 PM USC School of Cinematic Arts Ray Stark Family Theatre Los Angeles California DETAILS
05/04/18 - 12:00 PM Jacob Burns Film Center Jacob Burns Film Center Pleasantville New York DETAILS
05/04/18 - 02:30 PM Laemmle Theaters Laemmle Music Hall Theater Beverly Hills California DETAILS
05/07/18 - 07:00 PM Merrill Theatres Palace 9 Cinema Burlington Vermont DETAILS
05/08/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Theatres Landmark Lagoon Minneapolis Minnesota DETAILS
05/08/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Theatres Landmark Chez Artiste Denver Colorado DETAILS
05/08/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Theatres Landmark Aquarius Palo Alto California DETAILS
05/09/18 - 07:30 PM Cinema Arts Center Cinema Arts Center Huntington New York DETAILS
05/10/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Theatres Landmark Opera Plaza San Francisco California DETAILS
05/15/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Theatres Landmark Shattuck Berkeley California DETAILS
05/16/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Theatres Landmark Magnolia Dallas Texas DETAILS
05/18/18 - 01:00 PM Coolidge Corner Theatre Foundation Coolidge Corner Theatre Brookline Massachusetts DETAILS
05/21/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Theatres Midtown Art Cinema Atlanta Georgia DETAILS
05/29/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Theatres Landmark E Street Cinema Washington D.C. DETAILS
05/29/18 - 07:00 PM Landmark Theatres Landmark Bethesda Row Bethesda Maryland DETAILS
06/06/18 - 10:30 AM NEACAC and NYSACAC Super Conference, Coming Together Conference Private Screening Poughkeepsie New York DETAILS
06/06/18 - 10:30 AM NYSACAC, NEACAC, & Marist College Nelly Goletti Theatre; Marist 2018 Super Conference Poughkeepsie New York DETAILS
06/07/18 - 05:00 PM Living Room Theater Living Room Theater - Boca Raton Boca Raton Florida DETAILS
06/07/18 - 07:00 PM Living Room Theaters Living Room Theater - Portland Portland Oregon DETAILS
06/15/18 - 01:00 PM Castilleja School Private Screening Palo Alto California DETAILS
06/15/18 - 07:00 PM The Music Hall The Music Hall Portsmouth New Hampshire DETAILS
06/27/18 - 06:30 PM Nantucket Dreamland Foundation Nantucket Dreamland Theater Nantucket Massachusetts DETAILS
06/30/18 - 07:00 PM AERO 2018 Conference Long Island University Post Campus Brookville New York DETAILS
07/09/18 - 03:00 PM Choate Rosemary Hall College Counseling Office Private Screening Wallingford Connecticut DETAILS
07/12/18 - 12:00 PM Rider University Private Screening Lawrenceville New Jersey DETAILS
07/30/18 - 08:00 AM University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign Private Screening Urbana Illinois DETAILS
08/08/18 - 10:00 AM University of Denver Private Screening Denver Colorado DETAILS
08/16/18 - 02:00 PM Miami University Private Screening Oxford Ohio DETAILS
09/05/18 - 03:00 PM DocUtah DocUtah - International Documentary Film Festival (Dixie State Univ. Campus; films will be shown at RedCliffs Cinema 1 and 4) St. George Utah DETAILS
09/17/18 - 06:30 PM REDgen Nicolet High School Community Room Glendale Wisconsin DETAILS
09/28/18 - 06:30 PM NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling ) Private Screening - NACAC 2018 National Conference Salt Lake City Utah DETAILS
11/01/18 - 04:00 PM Worcester Polytechnic Institute Private Screening - George C. Gordon Library Worcester Massachusetts DETAILS
11/01/18 - 06:30 PM ENRICHri Brown University Auditorium - 85 Watermark Street Providence Rhode Island DETAILS
11/05/18 - 12:45 PM Young Women's Leadership Academy Private Screening San Antonio Texas DETAILS
11/07/18 - 07:00 PM Open Door Education The Gallery @ Villageworks Acton Massachusetts DETAILS
11/14/18 - 07:00 PM DePaul University Maine South High School Auditorium - 1111 South Dee Road Park Ridge Illinois DETAILS
11/16/18 - 08:00 AM The Awty International School Private Screening Houston Texas DETAILS
11/16/18 - 04:00 PM The Awty International School Private Screening Houston Texas DETAILS
11/30/18 - 12:00 PM Ivy Educational Services Private Screening Fanwood New Jersey DETAILS
12/03/18 - 05:30 PM The Enrollment Management Association Private Screening Skillman New Jersey DETAILS
12/04/18 - 02:00 PM Marquette University Office of Undergraduate Admissions Private Screening - David Straz Hall Milwaukee Wisconsin DETAILS
12/11/18 - 06:30 PM DePaul University Wolcott School Arts & Athletics Center - 1950 W Hubbard Street Chicago Illinois DETAILS
12/15/18 - 01:00 PM Project MOVE & Victory Collegiate High School Private screening - South Shore Educational Complex Brooklyn New York DETAILS
12/18/18 - 06:00 PM Wood River Community YMCA Wood River Community YMCA - 101 Saddle Road Ketchum Idaho DETAILS
01/18/19 - 01:30 PM Score At The Top Learning Center & Schools Private Screening Boca Raton Florida DETAILS
01/18/19 - 01:30 PM Saint Anselm College Private Screening Manchester New Hampshire DETAILS
01/31/19 - 03:40 PM Augsburg University Hagfors Center - 700 21st Ave. South Minneapolis Minnesota DETAILS
02/03/19 - 08:30 AM Southern Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers Private Screening Baton Rouge Louisiana DETAILS
02/07/19 - 06:30 PM mindSHIFT & The University of North Texas College of Education Private Screening North Richland Hills Texas DETAILS
02/07/19 - 06:30 PM Mount Madonna School Resource Center for Nonviolence - 612 Ocean Street Santa Cruz California DETAILS
02/10/19 - 05:00 PM Galin Education Private screening Middleton Wisconsin DETAILS
02/19/19 - 07:00 PM Pikesville High School Pikesville High School - 7621 Labyrinth Road Baltimore Maryland DETAILS
02/28/19 - 06:30 PM Mount Madonna School Morgan Hill Community Playhouse - 17090 Monterey Road, Morgan Hill, CA Morgan Hill California DETAILS
03/05/19 - 07:30 PM Landmark on Main Street Landmark on Main Street - Jeanne Rimsky Theater - 232 Main Street Port Washington New York DETAILS
03/14/19 - 07:30 PM Deerfield Parent Network Deerfield High School - 1959 Waukegan Road, Deerfield, IL Deerfield Illinois DETAILS
03/27/19 - 07:00 PM Carbondale Community High School The Varsity Center - 1301 E Walnut Street Carbondale Illinois DETAILS
03/28/19 - 07:00 PM Acalanes Parents Club Acalanes High School Performing Arts Center - 1200 Pleasant Hill Road Lafayette California DETAILS
04/09/19 - 07:00 PM McDonogh School Edward St. John Student Center, 8600 McDonogh Rd Owings Mills Maryland DETAILS
04/10/19 - 06:00 PM Pathways High School Pathways High School - 336 W. Walnut Street Milwaukee Wisconsin DETAILS
04/11/19 - 06:00 PM Bishop McNamara High School 6800 Marlboro Pike Forestville Maryland DETAILS
04/18/19 - 07:00 PM Sandown Public Library Sandown Public Library Sandown New Hampshire DETAILS
04/23/19 - 07:00 PM Young Democratic Socialists of America at ASU ASU Tempe Campus, Memorial Union, Mohave Room (#236) - 301 E Orange St. Tempe Arizona DETAILS
04/29/19 - 06:00 PM Let’s Talk Schools, LLC Sol Cinema Cafe - 2031 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. New York New York DETAILS
05/14/19 - 06:00 PM Oak Grove School Oak Grove School Student Center - 220 W. Lomita Ave Ojai California DETAILS


Documentary examines the impact of standardized testing | MSNBC

Morning Joe - MSNBC - Apr 02, 2019

Mount Madonna School screens ‘The Test and The Art of Thinking’ | Kena DeLong

Santa Cruz Sentinel - Feb 05, 2019

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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