Grades ≠ Smarts — Society’s Addiction to Numbers

This was the original Tweet that sparked my inspiration to write a publishing post addressing society’s perpetual addiction to numbers.

“Society leads you to believe that Grades = Smarts as no one else in human history has found any other widely used way to test for intellectual ability and put an exact score on it.”

Though you may call me a hater and think I know nothing better, I truly believe that this is the case in society. The society of not only today but of the generations before and the generations to come.

Grades & Scores

People like to generalise and say that Grades are equivalent to Smarts; however, I would like to disagree. Let’s say, for example, you have two people: one person with straight A’s for every single year of school, and another person with straight B’s and an occasional C because they were too busy with other things or couldn’t be bothered. Most companies would prefer the person with straight A’s because they have straight A’s, which in society’s terms means very smart and intelligent.

Merriam Webster defines smart as “having or showing a high degree of mental ability”. Most companies understandably prefer the smarter person; thus, they look at the person’s grades. Grades are derived in many ways, but they always lead back to the same source: a test. This test can be held in many ways as well, whether a formal or informal exam/quiz or whether it’s just an interview.

Your grade will always be a score, a number on a screen, a number on paper. You may be thinking that a grade can sometimes be in notes or words and not a number. But when comparing against other potential competitors, the notes the examiner wrote about you will be bucketed into pros and cons, where once again, it turns into a numbers game favouring the person with more pros and fewer cons.


Smarts is intelligence, human intellect. Something which can be tested for, but cannot be generalised in the sense that getting 100/100 for an entry test to a job means that you are the perfect fit for the position. You never know if that human intellect can translate to results, which means that you cannot purely base your judgment of human quality purely on a number on paper, a score, a grade.

Like I said in this other Tweet, “School gives you the pieces to the puzzle, but doesn’t teach you how to put them together.” What people should be testing for is whether you can put the pieces together, because what is the point in having the pieces to the puzzle if a) they aren’t the right pieces, and b) you can’t put them together.

Values > Grades

But let’s be honest, the current system has worked out well for society ever since society began, only because there was no other strategy used widely enough to compare results with those on a broader scale. Sure, you can count Bill Gates’ way of hiring a lazy person (with the hopes that the lazy person finds the quickest way to complete the task) as another way. But then again, companies want people who are hardworking and passionate.

Top Core Values

  • Loyalty
  • Passion
  • Honesty
  • Positivity
  • Optimism
  • Efficiency
  • Reliability
  • Commitment
  • Dependability

Have a look at the top core values people, consumers, brands, and companies expect from their community. Now, what if I told you (referring to the example of two people, one with straight A’s and one with straight B’s and some C’s) that the person with straight A’s — although they are intellectually capable — is not dependable, efficient, passionate, or honest. While the person with straight B’s is. Companies would now have an incentive to hire the person with straight B’s knowing the core values and personality of the candidate.


I wouldn’t want to keep rambling on about societal problems and the ineffectiveness of the current testing and scoring system, so I would like to end by concluding that conducting a test and having the grade of the test as a single basis point on whether the person is intellectually advanced or whether the person has the right core values is not the right way to go about things.

At the end of the day, values > grades (always). Because you can live life without a good set of scores and grades, but you can’t live life without a good set of values.


  • Everything stated has just been my opinion and my personal views.
  • We are all entitled to our own opinion, but anything said in this post should not be used as advice to act upon anything.

Dippudo is an Animator, Writer and Investor.



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