Standardized tests should not be required

SATs and ACTs do not measure student success


Mehroz Kapadia

By Alanna Joachim, Collegian columnist

In the American school system, standardized tests are so much a fixture of education that most of us do not even question their existence. For most of us, these tests are just a reality of going through high school. But what if they didn’t have to be?

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many high schools and colleges are opting to get rid of standardized testing due to the extenuating circumstances and the dangers of the testing environment. UMass is one of these colleges, having announced in late August that they would make standardized tests optional for prospective first-year students for the next three years. The only upside of the pandemic may be that colleges are finally forced to take a hard look at how they are evaluating a student’s worth and how their prior methods were not holistic and fair.

While I do not think that standardized testing should be completely abolished, I am calling for a de-emphasis of standardized testing in the admissions process. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the different ways colleges and universities can determine a student’s academic capabilities other than subjecting them to a grueling three or four hour exam. Research studies have shown that standardized test scores relate more to a student’s life circumstances, and not on their intelligence or knowledge of the material tested.

Some students may appreciate standardized testing as a simple way of categorizing academic proficiency. Certain scores often provide benchmarks for acceptances to prestigious colleges. But even when standardized tests are required, they are never the only determining factor in a student’s application. So why require them? If colleges insist that they look at more than just a number on the student’s application, we should not have a requirement to send in scores.

Standardized testing should be an option for students who wish to show results that portray them in a positive light. For many, standardized testing could be beneficial, as they might not have performed as well in their classes in high school for a combination of reasons but performed well on exam day. For others, it could be a disbenefit if they do not test well or do not have enough money to take the test multiple times and improve their score.

These tests should not be required in college admissions as they are simply not a holistic view of a student and disregards a student’s effort and hard work, which in the working world is often what matters the most to future employers. The ideals that standardized testing uphold is harmful to students’ mindsets about college and the world. Putting an emphasis on scores makes students see themselves as reduced to a number on a paper, and they come to value grades and numbers than about understanding and comprehension. Standardized testing teaches students to learn how to take a test, not to absorb new information and use it to problem solve.

My personal experience with standardized testing only concurs with my thoughts above. I took various standardized tests, — SATs, ACTs, and SAT subject tests — most of which I took multiple times. I find that timed tests are not conducive to my success, and that they force students to focus more on strategy than processing the questions. The standardized testing atmosphere is stressful and grueling for the brain. In senior year of high school, I started my AP Calculus test at 8 a.m. and finished around noon, then went right to my AP Computer Science exam which went until around 4 p.m. without even having time for lunch. This testing environment did not show my true performance in either subject. By the end of the day I could not concentrate on the latter test as I had already used a tremendous amount of energy doing the first.

Standardized testing is also expensive for students, and those who may not be able to afford it are at a disadvantage. In order to get the score that they desire many students pay almost $150-200 just on testing, not to mention the cost of tutoring or sending scores to colleges. The amount of money and time spent on standardized testing in America is essentially a waste, as the pandemic has shown that schools do not need standardized testing in order to evaluate students.

I urge more colleges and universities to turn their backs on the standardized testing requirements for admission, and to instead look more closely at students’ applications in a way that shows they are more than just a score or statistic.

Alanna Joachim is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]