By: Miranda Knowles
Universities across the nation have begun to make standardized testing an optional choice to submit for college admission. Why? The Covid Pandemic. This way, the application process remains fair for everyone during these unprecedented times. As students all across the country chose not to submit their test scores, many have begun to question why standardized tests exist at all. Is this really an accurate way to measure a student’s academic abilities?
Although the College Board and ACT are designed to measure a student’s skills, several factors prevent the ACT and SAT from being a fair process, ultimately contributing to the inequality of standardized testing.
One factor is that 16-20% of students face test anxiety. Although a student may be able to receive a good test score under relaxing conditions, they may do significantly worse with the added pressure of finishing in a limited amount of time. Coming from personal experience, I remember the uneasiness I felt before taking my SAT and ACT tests. I fell out of balance with my typical routine before these tests, which caused me even more anxiety. Consequently, I felt tired as I took the test, putting so much pressure on myself to succeed. After all, if I bombed this test, how would I get into my dream school? How would I get any scholarships? Like many students, I amounted my self-worth to the scores I received on my tests.
Another issue is that the presence of economic biases hinders these tests from being fair. With the SAT costing $55 and the ACT costing $60, some families may be only able to afford to take the test once. Some, not at all. Meanwhile, more privileged students have the resources to take these tests multiple times. Although both organizations offer financial aid, many do not qualify for this assistance, yet still need help financially. This means that even if two students had identical capabilities, one taking the test once and one taking the test multiple times, they may score very differently.
I took the SAT once and the ACT 4 times (1 ACT test was free, provided by my school). In total, my parents spent $235 on these tests alone. When reporting my scores for college applications, I only submitted my ACT test because I felt this was my strong suit. So, I took the ACT repeatedly in hopes of receiving a better score. After my first ACT, I received a 24. After wanting a higher score, I decided to take it again and received a 25. On my third test, administered by my school, I received a 26. In hopes of getting my score even higher for more scholarship opportunities, I took the test one final time. To my surprise, I ended up receiving a 29. Had I only taken the ACT once, I would have a 24 on this test, but because I had the resources to achieve a higher score on this test, via retesting measures, I did significantly better.
Not only was I able to afford to take multiple tests, but like many other privileged students, I took an SAT/ACT preparation course to improve my scores. After my parents spent $500, I managed to improve my scores each time I took the ACT. Many students do not have access to the same resources that I used to improve my ACT score. Therefore, how are these tests considered accurate measurements of a student’s abilities? This gives privileged students a greater advantage in the college admission process.
Neurodivergent students are also challenged when it comes to standardized testing. Although there are testing accommodations that the SAT and ACT make for students who need them, this process must begin months in advance before their upcoming test. To receive accommodations for a standardized test in the fall semester of junior year, the process to receive accommodations needs to begin during the spring of sophomore year. Because this process offers little guidance, students may not receive accommodations for their tests. Even if they do get accommodations, they still may score poorly on these tests because it does not accurately measure their capabilities. This can be disheartening for the students that think differently from what the ACT and SAT are testing.
The only way to solve this problem is to abolish the SAT and ACT tests. Colleges should focus on one’s essays, GPA, extracurricular activities, and recommendations. These qualities make up a student and give admissions committees a more holistic view of the student when deciding whether they are a good fit for their college. Students taking these tests come from numerous different backgrounds. If this hinders many of them from achieving their goals, then why do standardized tests still exist if they only create a larger gap in our society?