Standardized tests fail to measure true ability

Story by Celeste Anderson, news editor

4.0 GPA. All AP classes. Five to six hours of homework a night. Weekends and all free time spent volunteering. For some reason, America has decided that the weight and time spent on all of these factors combined pales in comparison to the much dreaded ACT and SAT.

Students file into classrooms after having their ID checked and await stressful testing and bubbling in answers. When they get their scores back, experience an array of different emotions; they hold the belief that their ACT or SAT score dictates which college they will go to and potentially their future.

Why does the United States place such significance on a single test taken for four to six hours on a Saturday morning, rather than the days, months and years spent in a classroom and at home doing rigorous work? It is understandable that the College Board wants all students to be admitted into college equally, and it thinks a required standardized test is the right way to do it, but this is wrong.

Rather than admitting a student based on their ability to cheat a test, (and by this, it is understood that “cheating a test” means learning the tips and tricks of how to take the ACT or SAT in a short amount of time, as anyone who has taken these tests realizes that this is the “easiest” way to improve his/her score) colleges should look to the student’s transcript, extracurricular activities and letters of recommendations- the factors that make a student well-rounded. This way, universities can look at the grades, values and personality of the student. After all, these characteristics encompass what the student has been cultivating for years, since childhood.

Additionally, taking the ACT and SAT costs money- up to $60 each time, not including late registration or other miscellaneous fees. While the College Board wants equality for all students, this is a blatant violation of that policy, as it favors the more economically fortunate. Thus, this leads to students with more funds being able to take the test more times than those who don’t have extra money, allowing those with money to improve their score through practice. While there are fee waivers, there are many requirements to receive them, and not all those who need waivers can obtain them. Also, students with more wealth have the ability to purchase ACT/SAT help books, which advertise the “helpful tips and tricks to improve your score.”

While many claim that the ACT and SAT tests the college-readiness of a student, this is simply not true. How is answering 40 multiple choice questions in 35 minutes on a reading test preparing a student for college? Or writing an essay in 40 minutes (which is not a college concept at all, as college papers usually take weeks)? How is buying a book that actively advertises the ways to “cheat” these tests getting one ready for college? The answers to all of these is no, the standardized tests required by most colleges do nothing to prepare students for university work.

Other critics assert that having a standardized test disregards unfair schooling, such as one school being much more rigorous than the other, and puts students on an even playing field. However, if a college looks at the transcript of a student, it can get a tentative idea of how a student performs and how seriously they take school based on his or her grades, eliminating the need for such standardized tests.

Because of these various factors, some colleges have started to turn away from the SAT and ACT, including many liberal arts colleges, who don’t even require a student to submit these scores when they apply. Instead, such schools seek well-rounded students, or those semi-strong to strong in every subject rather than strong in a few and weak in many. Moreover, these universities ask for more letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities, showing that the character and hard work of a student is important in addition to grades.

If more universities started seeking out students based on the amount of work they put in everyday rather than four to five hours on a Saturday, they can turn the American school system away from unnecessary testing and towards more in-depth qualifications for admission into university.