Why all colleges should stop requiring standardized test scores

My final thoughts on standardized testing

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Why all colleges should stop requiring standardized test scores

Photo credit to the Wall Street Journal

Photo credit to the Wall Street Journal

Photo credit to the Wall Street Journal

Photo credit to the Wall Street Journal

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Imagine this: You spend five months in and out of practice tests and tutoring sessions. When you’re not doing regular homework, you’re doing ACT or SAT work. You dedicate so much of your time to the ACT or SAT. And then after all these months of studying, learning, and practicing, the test arrives. You get up bright and early to take the 8:00 am test and then suffer through it until you’re released around 1:00 pm. You feel the weight lifted off your shoulders. A few weeks later, however, your scores come back and you don’t do as well as you would’ve liked. It looks like you’ll have to take the test again; the weight returns to your shoulders and your self-confidence drops.

Photo credit to CollegeXpress.

Now this may seem dramatized, but this is the reality for thousands of students, myself included. We spend so long preparing for one test and end up extremely disappointed when it doesn’t go our way. Taking the ACT and SAT can be very damaging for a student’s psyche. I’m not just saying this as a lazy student who doesn’t want to sit for a five hour long test. Having spent the better part of the last month and a half researching standardized tests and hearing from other students, I know a lot about these tests. And as a student in the midst of her ACT studying, I have experienced the agony of these tests firsthand. All of my research and prior experience has led me to conclude that there is no benefit to standardized testing, and it should be done away with at every university.

First off, the question that needs to be asked is why do most colleges require standardized tests in the first place? Although I can’t give you an exact answer, here’s what I think. Because most colleges receive thousands upon thousands of applicants that come from high schools with different grading systems, they need to find a way to compare students to one another. For example, if a college has one applicant with a 4.0 GPA and another applicant with a 10.0 GPA, how does it fairly compare them? These standardized tests were created because they exist on a uniform grading scale. No matter when and where a student takes them, the ACT will always be graded out of 36 and the SAT will always be graded out of 1600. Having the ACT and SAT as requirements makes it easier for colleges to distinguish between applicants and fairly compare them.

This graph from the Washington Post shows the differences in SAT scores between different income levels.

However, I disagree with this entirely because how students perform on their standardized tests doesn’t always reflect the kinds of students they are. I’ll use myself as an example here (Disclaimer: I’m not trying to brag; I’m trying to prove a point). I’m what most would call an overachiever. I study extremely hard and my grades reflect that. But from taking the ACT, I’ve found out that I’m not a great test-taker. Since June, I have dedicated my entire life to the ACT, but I’ve been unable to reach my target score and do as well as I would like. On the contrary, I’m sure there are plenty of students who don’t work hard, don’t get very good grades, but are naturally good test-takers. Why are they put at an advantage over people like me? I don’t want to sound like a complainer, but in what way is that fair? How can colleges judge students based on a test they took on a random Saturday morning for five hours? How is that an accurate representation of how smart a student is? Just the idea of it seems ridiculous. And yes, maybe if I wasn’t so frustrated with how I’ve been doing on the ACT, I wouldn’t be so against standardized testing. But I know I’m not alone. Junior and SAT taker Margaret Scully said, “I think that these standardized tests put smart kids that do well in school but just cannot take a test at an unfair disadvantage. Some kids do well in school, but struggle with tests, and it is frustrating because the results on the ACT and SAT don’t always match the student’s overall intelligence.”

Poor test-takers aren’t the only students negatively affected by the requirement of the ACT and SAT. Students of lower-income families and of certain racial groups are also put at a disadvantage. If we were to look at a town like Rye compared to any other town, this would become very apparent. Here, in a town where most people are white and most people are wealthy (at least in comparison to the rest of the country), standardized testing is a major priority, and students do really well on their tests. Families are willing to spend thousands of dollars for tutors so that their kids can get the best possible scores. As Rye students, it’s normal for us to have multiple tutors and spend a lot of money on these tutors. In other, less fortunate areas, where the school systems aren’t as good and people don’t have as much money to spend, this is not normal. In fact, in a lot of other towns, kids self-study for the tests and hope for the best. This is why the national average for the ACT is around a 20.4 out of 36, a score that I’d assume most Rye kids wouldn’t be happy with. Likewise, stats from the CollegeBoard show that, on average, white and Asian students receive better scores than black and Latino students. A number of factors could contribute to this, but regardless, it puts certain students at an unfair disadvantage.

This graph shows the score differences between racial groups. Photo credit to Alexandria Times.

There are already a handful of colleges that no longer require applicants to submit their ACT and SAT scores. Take University of Chicago for example. It has an acceptance rate of eight percent and is consistently ranked as one of the top ten colleges in America. Earlier this year, the school announced that it will no longer require students to submit their ACT and SAT scores as part of their applications. This is a great start, but a new problem arises. Will students who decide not to submit their scores be penalized? The school says no, but I’m not sure if I believe that. After all, if two extremely qualified students apply, but only one submits his scores, will he be given an advantage over the other student? The solution to this problem would be to ban requiring standardized tests altogether.

Clearly, there are a number of problems associated with standardized testing. Students become more stress, more overworked, and less confident. If we want to prioritize the mental health and wellbeing of our students, then we should address the problems associated with the ACT and SAT and work on a solution.

For more on the ACT and SAT, check out my other articles.