PRO/CON: Standardized Testing
Should Colleges remove SAT and ACT from the admissions process?
March 20, 2019
PRO: Standardizing academics over individuality
Standardized tests: an obstacle course every student seeking to go to college must get past. Because of the immense stress they place on students, their inability to truly measure a student’s ability and how results are dependent on one’s economic status, standardized tests should be removed as a college requirement.
Statistics from College Board show that SAT scores are strongly correlated with a student’s financial situation, as families with higher incomes have the ability to pay for test prep courses or have one-on-one sessions with tutors. With college’s reliance on SAT scores to represent a student’s knowledge, that lack of opportunity enforces a vicious cycle of a less-educated lower class.
Even though test-takers have the ability to take these assessments multiple times, some students are just naturally bad test takers. While these students may not excel in test taking, they can still shine in other areas, whether it be through internships, grades or projects that influence the community. Colleges should focus more on long term achievements, such a healthy GPA over all four years of high school or long-lasting involvement within a club, as these things show dedication and perseverance, important characteristics for college.
The idea that a single test can not only “define” how good of a student you are is not fair in addition to how scholarships are awarded based on a student’s scores. As mentioned before, colleges should focus on more notable achievements and award scholarships to recipients accordingly.
These tests determine how well you know grammar and math topics, namely how much a student has been exposed to this style of testing. Even so, these tests are not always a reliable means of predicting a student’s success in college.
Furthermore, the ability to take advantage of these tests has been shown through a recent case where it was found that parents were paying large amounts of money to have wrong answers corrected on their children’s tests in order to ensure higher scores. This goes to show how corrupt the system can be at times, administering unfair tests so that people can have higher scores than those that take these tests under regular conditions.
Since January 2018, over 1,000 colleges have dropped the requirement to take these assessments, and the number is growing. According to a study done in the same year by the National Public Radio, standardized tests have shown little insight as to how students will perform in college. For example, in George Washington University’s case, there was no correlation to the suggestion that students with higher test scores performed better than those who had not submitted any scores at all.
Another study done by the National Association for College Admission Counseling showed that when compared to their submitting counterparts, those who had not submitted any tests had graduation rates that were equivalent or higher. Other colleges need to follow in the footsteps of schools who have removed that requirement, instead looking at aspects of a student’s education that will truly reflect their ability to succeed.
By no means are standardized tests the only way to determine competency, as there are other paths to take; removing standardized tests altogether is the first step to creating better futures for students and their college journeys.
CON: Standardized testing provides basis for admission
No one likes to be defined by numbers, especially in the context of standardized testing scores. However, these scores provide an impartial rationality to what is a largely unpredictable college admissions process.
Accomplishments and extracurriculars are extremely subjective. An activity that a student puts their heart and soul into might amaze one admissions officer but leave another unfazed. A student’s ability to win competitions or excel in a musical instrument is controlled by many variables: the environment in which the student grew up in, the school they attend, or the teachers and mentors they have had access to.
Essays are also subjective. Every reader will have a different response to an essay, cultivated by personal bias.
Even grades are variable. Every teacher across the country has a distinct teaching style and varies in the difficulty of their classwork. An AP U.S. History class at Diamond Bar High School is completely different than that same course in a different school.
Standardized testing does have variability, but the variables are not as reliant on external factors. Having such tests gives admissions officers a way to evaluate students objectively and consistently.
Standardized tests serve as indicators of a student’s potential, both in college and beyond. A study done by Vanderbilt researchers David Lubinski and Camilla Benbow showed that SAT scores correlate with future income and success in the workforce. Another study by College Board showed that college success was better predicted by using both SAT scores and high school GPA, rather than high school GPA alone.
I admit, I took an SAT prep class, an advantage that was made possible to me because of my socioeconomic status. This practice is unfair to those who can’t afford such classes, and it is true that students who come from wealthier backgrounds disproportionately receive higher scores.
However, variables in standardized testing are easier to control than in other areas of admission. Resources such as Khan Academy help level the playing field, and there are other ways to offer free test prep classes in schools for those who can’t afford them. If a student is able to get an internship because their parents have connections, or has the money to pay for coaching that propels them to become a nationally ranked debater, it is harder to provide equal opportunity to lower income students.
Though some people criticize standardized tests for their unreasonable cost, both the SAT and the ACT have fee waiver programs for students who fall within a certain income bracket to ensure that both tests are accessible to all students.
Obviously, standardized testing should not be the end-all be-all qualifying factor to college admissions—and it’s not. Plenty of students have been accepted into top universities (even without resorting to bribes) with less-than-perfect test scores. Parkland shooting survivor and activist David Hogg made headlines for being accepted into Harvard despite having a relatively low SAT score, and his admission was still well-deserved.
Still, standardized testing should remain as a means of objectively demonstrating a students’ ability. Though there are issues with the way these tests reflect income disparity, getting rid of these tests completely is not the solution.