Ahhh standardized testing. As if applying to colleges wasn’t stressful enough on its own, you have to register for these 4-hour exams where you’re constantly being timed, allowed only 5-minute breaks, and not to mention being told constantly these will basically decide your future.
With the SAT and ACT being such commonplace requirements, I didn’t think much of it when I knew I’d have to sign up to take it my junior and senior year. I knew you needed a good GPA, too… but I definitely stressed out when it came to these scores (which didn’t come out for AGES after we took the exam). So I was intrigued when I found out more colleges are beginning to forgo the SAT/ACT test requirement for admissions.
So I’m sitting here thinking, great, these little kids aren’t going to need to sit through those agonizing exams like I did? Well, the vast majority of colleges and universities still require the SAT and ACT, but there has been a sweeping trend to eliminate them in favor of non-traditional options.
Is this good or bad? Well, these tests were originally designed to “level the playing field”, that is; regardless of how good your school system was, you could take this test and colleges would get a true feel for your level of intellect and problem-solving skills. Essentially, if you had a disadvantaged upbringing, taking this exam could still show colleges how valuable you were as a student.
However, when it comes to the present day, the SAT/ACT exams actually show a bias for upper-class social classes and private school systems. Think about it–SAT testing as well as prep classes are expensive, and students who can afford to attend private schools will benefit in that area alone, but the bias is not just economic. Racial biases have also been disputed, including vocabulary terms that are more dominant in white society, as opposed to minority cultures. There also remains a gender gap, where men outperform women, which researchers speculate may be due to males being more comfortable with the “rushed” testing atmosphere, while females typically are more thorough test-takers and less likely to guess the answer and move on.
With all these known elements to the test, I think it’s clear that those exam scores are not necessarily representative of the best college candidates! I’m surprised that admissions boards still rely so heavily on these scores, but then I remember how difficult it is to narrow down the applicant field. Eventually, you do need to have a way to create a “cutoff”, and with so many different schools calculating GPA differently, there needs to be a way to measure natural intellect vs. good schooling, as well as GPA inflation.
Finally, there is the whole question of the applicants colleges really do want to take. Can a student do poorly on the SAT, but really apply themselves when it comes to studies? Absolutely. Meanwhile, some students are able to knock standardized tests out of the park, but have zero work ethic in academics. Luckily, there are many facets to college admissions to offset the weak areas of each criteria point.
I’m interested to learn what some of the new admissions criteria will involve if standardized tests really are beginning to be fazed out. Will admissions essays be more standard? Or is there a better way to review applications that colleges and universities haven’t implemented yet? I’ll be looking forward to the change.
[Lead image via Aspen Photo/Shutterstock]