March 4, 2021
This past admissions year, seniors were given a new college application experience that has sparked a movement away from the SAT and ACT, standardized tests that had dominated high school students’ minds for nearly one hundred years. Due to COVID-19 lockdown procedures, the College Board has been unable to administer the SAT and ACT tests. As such, many universities have adopted test-optional policies in the interim, creating a new frontier for college admissions as they navigate life without standardized tests.
As COVID-19 continues to keep the United States on lockdown, the College Board has been unable to administer their standardized tests, the SAT and ACT. These tests, namely the SAT, which dates back to 1926 and was originally designed to test army recruits’ IQs, had been adapted over the years to test college applicants’ intelligence and gauge their possible success in a college, according to a PBS article on the history of the SAT. Now, standardized tests are used as a means of providing a universal system of measuring high school student’s aptitude for college, independent of the numerous different grading systems employed throughout the United States. However, in recent years, FairTest, an educational organization focused on correcting and advocating against the misuse of standardized tests, has continued to push to remove the SAT and ACT as requirements for college admissions. With COVID-19 as a catalyst, test-optional policies have begun to appear around the country, some going as far as to be test-optional for years to come, such as the UC system in California.
It is not just FairTest that has been advocating against standardized tests either. Many students have been stating their opposition to these tests as well. “It doesn’t measure anything,” said senior Aliya Belay. “The progress you have made in your classes is more representative of how good of a student you are, not a random test you take at 8 a.m. on a Saturday.”
Many students believe that placing such a large amount of someone’s college decision on a single test is unfair, as many factors could inhibit your score and negatively impact your college career in the long term. In fact, according to Thomas Rochon, a former GRE testing program executive member and president of Ithaca College from 2008-2017, in an article published in 2013, “Our first realization was that test scores add relatively little to our ability to predict the success of our students… In addition, we know that some potential students are deterred from applying to colleges that require a test score because they are not comfortable taking standardized tests.” The College Board openly admits to the fact that the SAT and ACT are not meant to be used to predict a student’s future GPA much better than their existing GPA does, according to Rochon.
As stated above, the SAT had been adapted since its creation in 1926 to measure the potential of high school students to succeed in college. This attempt to standardize the evaluation of a student’s intelligence and aptitude for learning was meant to ease the admissions process, as the school systems from county to county do not go hand-in-hand. Across the US, from the variance of class lengths to the GPA system, the vast differences between how each county educates their students can make it difficult for colleges to properly evaluate a student’s information, and correctly compare it to other possible applicants. However, standardization itself can create a problem for many students, as, according to Ms. Emily Stackhouse, an English teacher at Atholton High School, “There are so many different learners, that having anything that is standardized is not going to accurately reflect the unique abilities of students.”
In addition, FairTest and many students have aired grievances over the cost of the test, as well as the price of being well-prepared enough to pass the exam. Tutors, help books, and the ability to retake the test all hinge on a student’s ability to pay enough money. According to senior Jaden Sarney, some students take the test multiple times to try and reach the score they want, but as the test costs money, students who do not have the ability to spend money to retake the test again and again if they do not do well the first time. While the College Board does provide fee waivers, these are case-sensitive and would not apply to every student who may need one. Plus, tutors and test books also cost money, furthering the divide between the resources available to students of a lower economic class than those of a higher one.
As the standardized tests gradually disappear from the admissions checklist of many colleges, the college admissions process enters a new frontier it had not seen in nearly a century. Whether a new test will rise to succeed the SAT and ACT, or standardized tests will become a relic of the past for future generations remains to be seen; however, it’s likely that many changes will arise within the next few years in the college admissions process.