It is 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, your No. 2 pencils are in hand and there you are waiting in a long line to sign in and go to your assigned testing room. Thoughts of stress and fear fill your mind, as this test could determine how you will spend your next four years. Some of your dreams might be crushed and some might be met, but why? All because of a test that does not realistically define our mind’s capabilities, who we are as people or what we will accomplish? The move away from standardized tests have taken headlines over the past couple of years, as colleges and universities are starting to realize that standardized testing does not define a competitive and intelligent student.
Personally, my score was not off the charts on the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). I only performed on the average scale. In high school I took almost every Advanced Placement class, dual-enrolled in a local college to double my credits and was highly involved at school and in my community. My grade point average was stellar, and I graduated within the top 10 percent of my 350-student class. I applied to 12 schools, of which only two were test-optional. At the time, I was confident that all my other achievements would outweigh my lacking SAT scores, but when, as a Florida resident, I received my rejection from the University of Florida, my jaw hit the floor. I was way more qualified than other applicants in my grade and they got in just because they had a higher test score than I did…it made absolutely no sense to me. The pride I took for my involvement in school, within and outside of academics, was out of this world. It helped me get into other top-tier colleges, but I really struggled with grasping the idea of why I was not “cut-out” for larger public universities in the eyes of their admissions officers. Did they not read my essay? Did they even check my awards and recognitions? Did they consider my GPA? These were the questions that I pondered.
The SAT and/or ACT (American College Testing) do not offer many benefits if you think about it. According to Inside Higher Ed, the tests allow larger universities to sort through applicants quicker, since they will throw out applications who do not fit their median score requirements. This, again, weeds out students who could be just as successful as, if not more than, students who have high scores on the SAT and/or ACT. Some consider the fact that these standardized tests generalize education, so what does that even mean? Sure, in the primary education grades everyone should learn how to add, subtract, read and understand basic passages, but why should that define you entering higher education?
There is also the possibility of marginalizing students through these standardized tests. When you sit down to take the test, you spend a solid amount of time filling out your gender, race, ethnicity and other background information, which really makes you question whether they are marginalizing students based on their results. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, minority groups’ scores are over 100 points lower than students in non-minority groups. People of certain economic backgrounds can also afford to hire specialized tutors and buy test preparation books to learn common strategies for test taking.
Speaking of test taking strategies, the SAT and ACT absolutely focus more on strategy, or “trick questions,” rather than on actual material. There are hundreds, or even thousands, of companies that students can pay to learn hacks or specific strategies they can use to help them score better. Also, there are students who are fortunate enough to be naturally successful test takers, regardless of preparation. These factors lead to unreliable results that do not accurately depict a student’s ability to perform well in college and beyond.
Even with testing strategies in hand, many students like myself suffer from some form of testing anxiety. Testing anxiety can stem from many things, but for me, it was the pressure of the SAT defining my life or determining where I would attend college. Anxiety for the test is often viewed very negatively in academia, but the number of students who suffer from these feelings is astronomical. Many studies have taken place for students who have testing anxiety, and researchers from Georgia Southern University found that it adversely affects scores/performance because it limits “working memory space available for processing test information.” It is also no help that these tests can be for long, extended periods of time, often held after long school weeks, on the weekends.
There are also many scandals associated with the college admissions process and the testing industry as a whole. Between parents paying for their unqualified children to be admitted into a certain university or the $1 billion testing industry, there is never a lack of issues associated with testing. Most recently, actress Lori Laughlin and her husband were arrested due to a college admissions scandal while trying to have their daughters be fraudulently recruited as athletes to allow for easier admissions into University of Southern California. Laughlin and her family were one of many to be publicly caught in this type of scandal, but this is more common than one would think. Some parents even pay double tuition for their children to attend highly branded universities.
When applying to colleges, one of the things that stood out to me about Fairfield University was their test-optional option for admission into the school. I decided to not send my test scores in as part of my application, and interviewed instead. I found that the interview process was more focused on the school learning about me, and it also gave me better insight into the University as a whole. The interview process can help better prepare students for “big” interviews they will go through in the future as they enter the job market. It allows colleges and universities to get a better understanding of who their prospective students really are, and what their true capabilities are.
Colleges and universities that once required SAT Subject Tests and test-based essays are no longer able to since they have been cancelled across the country. At one point in time, highly ranked schools required multiple SAT Subject Tests, on top of the general test. It created much more stress for students in a time crunch to apply to colleges with the busyness of their lives. Most students take the SAT or ACT multiple times too, which can get expensive. This provides more of a reason to think that testing companies are focused on money rather than the true correlation between qualified students attending colleges they deserve to study at.
College is one of the most defining times in anyone’s life and will allow for development into the person they are meant to be. We are all more than a score on a test. We are our work ethic, intelligence, habits, imaginations and so much more. No college or university should base their student population on invalid standardized tests that have more negative components than positive ones.