Point/Counter-Point: Should colleges accept standardized tests?

More stories from Sam Lever

Science with Spangler
November 29, 2016

More stories from Conor Johnson

Standardized tests provide schools a baseline

-Sam Lever-

Nobody likes taking standardized tests.  They’re long, arduous, and boring.  On top of all that, students have to pay upwards of 40 dollars for each test.  Because of their unpopularity, some colleges are beginning to not require standardized tests as part of their application.   

As much as I dislike taking these tests, though, I think this trend is dangerous for several reasons.  

First, standardized tests offer an easy and direct comparison between students.  For example, some students may have the exact same grades in the exact same classes at different schools, but have a different GPA, as not all high schools weigh classes the same way.  However, an ACT or SAT score can act as a tiebreaker between these students.  Although a student may have had a bad day on the day of the test, standardized tests are good baselines to compare similar students and guarantee the most qualified applicants are admitted.

Another reason standardized tests should be required for college applications is that they demonstrate a cursory knowledge of high school material.  Not everyone is going to be a writer or work in the humanities as an adult, but understanding basic grammar and reading comprehension is a skill everyone should have if they hope to be successful in the real world.  Similarly, while some students don’t aspire to be mathematicians or engineers, a grasp of simple algebra and geometry is important to college success.

A final reason standardized tests are important is because they demonstrate to colleges how well a student performs under pressure.  A student could write the best essays, get straight A’s, and be fully involved in extracurriculars, but until he or she prove can function in a high pressure situation, a college can not truly know the student’s academic potential?  In and after college, people are constantly faced with new challenges, and standardized tests are a good indicator as to who is most prepared for the life’s daily challenges of life.

Admittedly, standardized tests unfairly affect minority and underprivileged students.  In fact, at OPRF, white students score, on average, seven points higher than African-American students.  However, the achievement gap isn’t just going to go away if colleges take away a standardized test requirement.  Institutional racism goes much deeper than an ACT or SAT score; by taking away that requirement, colleges lose much more than they have to gain.




Standardized tests are pointless and biased

-Conor Johnson-

Every high school junior knows the feeling. Butterflies flying around in your stomach. Your head pounding in your eardrums. That sense of nervous dread you feel before you sit down to take a test that might determine the rest of your life.

Every year, 1.7 million kids take the SAT and ACT, and every year, millions of seniors are forced to submit the results of these three-hour marathon sessions to colleges nationwide.   

These tests, however, are unfair, pointless, and detrimental to both students and colleges, and the requirement almost all colleges currently have requiring these test scores should be abolished.

Despite what the name may lead you to believe, standardized tests are by no means “standard” for every individual. In fact, they have been shown to be biased against both low-income students and minorities. Oftentimes, students from wealthier families prepare for these tests by spending hundreds on classes and books and as a result do better than low-income students who simply cannot afford the prep. The Washington Post reports SAT scores consistently increase by income bracket, from an average score of 1326 for families making below $20,000 a year to a score of 1,714 for families making above $200,000.

This difference is also reflected by race. In the 2014-15 school year, the average SAT score for a white college-bound student was 1,063, while the average score for a black college-bound student was 859. This difference, which research suggests is largely a product of an educational system that systematically discriminates against minority students, also reflects inherent biases in the testing process. A 2010 study in the Harvard Educational Review found certain questions on the SAT had higher scores for white students even when factors such as income and education were taken into account, indicating that certain questions contain cultural assumptions that unfairly benefit white test takers.

Even if the biases present in standardized testing are not enough, standardized tests are hardly a predictor of future success. Three hours spent in a stuffy classroom on a Saturday morning should not equate with the years of hard work many students put into their classes. A study by Bates College found academic disparities between students who chose to submit a test score and those who did not was negligible; the two groups were separated by .05 of a point for GPA and 0.6 percent for graduation rate. Eliminating the testing requirement in college applications would hardly affect a college’s ability to determine the academic caliber of a student.

Finally, it has been proven that eliminating testing requirements actually improves the academic caliber of a school because it encourages quality applicants to apply to schools they never would otherwise. Take, for example, Ithaca College. In 2012, the school eliminated its testing requirement, and as a result they experienced a 13 percent increase in applications and admitted the most diverse class in school history while requirements such as GPA remained steady.

Hampshire College followed suit in 2014, and they experienced similar results. Their yield rate, the percentage of students accepted who attend, rose by 8 percent, and the school had the most racially and socioeconomically diverse class in its history.

Eliminating standardized testing requirements would benefit both students and colleges. The admissions process is already difficult enough.