Should colleges continue using standardized test scores for admission?

October 21, 2021

Pro: No need to change what works

When colleges and universities — both small and prestigious — announced the opportunity for students to not submit their standardized test scores on the Common Application, universities such as Harvard University saw a 42% increase in college applications, according to an article in the Washington Post.
Since the Stanford-Binet Intelligence test was developed in 1905, many colleges and universities have adopted similar standardized tests to analyze students and teacher’s performance in the classroom. As colleges and universities become test optional — allowing students to decide whether they should submit their test scores — it is important to acknowledge that these tests would serve as an indicator for a student’s performance towards different subjects and serve as a tool to gage the effectiveness of the current education system. Therefore, colleges and universities should continue to utilize standardized tests in the admissions process. 

For decades, colleges and universities have used standardized tests such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and now the American College Testing (ACT) as a factor in student’s college admissions. These exams may seem like a simple number admission officers use to judge students, however the score of the exam proves to be beneficial to students. With universities receiving thousands of applications annually, the test can serve as another measurement for a student’s academic success, according to Azusa Pacific University. Colleges and universities do look at a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA), however if a student’s GPA is not as high as they had hoped, a high score on the SAT or ACT can reveal a student’s true potential for certain subjects. By submitting either the SAT or ACT, some students are now able to show their true knowledge towards a specific subject. 

While the standardization of these tests allow colleges and universities to examine the students, it also can inform future instruction. When students in California take the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress Assessment (CAASPP), the scores are reported to the California Department of Education. The results would then be used to promote high-quality teaching, according to the California Department of Education. Schools may restructure their curriculums based on the performance of the annual standardized tests. This idea can also be applied towards the SAT and ACT. As students take the exam annually, their scores will determine the difficulty for the resulting year. In order for teachers to promote a sense of college readiness in high school classes, they should take available information about the test and apply it into their classes. By creating a curriculum that is based off of the SAT or ACT, students will be better prepared for their college experience.  

It is true that many students from low-income families are not able to receive the same opportunities as high-income families, however, the problem may not directly lie on the difference in scores received by different incomes, but the allocation of students to different colleges and universities, according to a study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. The study notes how students of low-income and of the middle class are less likely to attend schools higher income students are able to despite the similarity in their test scores. The study itself concludes that the distribution of students to different colleges and universities can help increase the students of lower income to attend universities that are similar to those who are of high incomes. 

Standardized tests should continue to be used in the college admissions process as it helps boost a student’s academic profile and inform the future curriculum in classrooms. As students took the PSAT and the Pre ACT on Oct. 13, they will be able to reflect about the contents on the test and properly prepare for their future standardized tests.

About the Writer
Photo of Evelyn Kuei
Evelyn Kuei, Managing Editor

Evelyn Kuei is a senior and managing editor for El Vaquero. Kuei is also the spotlight editor. This is her second year on staff.

Con: Unreliability clouds predictability

Among the class of 2020, nearly 2.2 million students took the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) at least once. For that year alone, almost 33 million hours were spent preparing for the infamous test taken strictly for college admissions, according to Kaplan.

Studying for standardized tests as well as high school classes, clubs, extracurricular activities and college applications has become the standard for college-driven students, but is this exam, surrounded by cheating, invalidity, bias and outdatedness, still an appropriate factor in college admissions? Standardized test scores should no longer be used as a factor in college admissions because such tests put equity and integrity at stake.

Standardized tests, such as the SAT and American College Testing (ACT) are not equitable enough to be used to determine an applicant’s status of admission. According to a 2015 analysis from the Insider High Ed, the lowest SAT scores came from students belonging to families that have an annual income less than $20,000. On the other hand, the highest average test scores came from students belonging to families that have an annual income higher than $200,000. What causes this disparity? Affordability. Standardized test-prep programs’ high costs cater to students from higher socio-economic classes, so why are these tests labeled as “standardized” when they are anything but? Professional advice is not cheap, and the more hours spent with a tutor, the higher a student tends to score. In order to even the playing field in admissions, colleges should abolish “standardized” tests for good.

Cheating is inevitable, and it has more of an impact than many may think. According to College Reality Check, it is estimated that around 2,000 students cheat on the SAT test each year. While this number may seem low out of the millions of test takers, it is far greater than it should be. In terms of a college’s incoming class of students, many top universities admit around 3,000 to 10,000 students. Compared to the number of annual cheaters, a college can come close to filling their entire incoming class with students who practiced academic dishonesty on their admissions test and lied about their true score. Why are colleges still rewarding dishonest students with an admissions letter? It is time to push back the unethical admissions skew and return to awarding integrity, not deceit.

Many claim that colleges should continue using standardized tests as a factor in college admissions because they predict college performance. While this statement may be partially true, data has shown that other components of applicant’s applications serve as a stronger predictor of success. According to a University of Chicago Consortium study, an applicant’s high-school grade point average (GPA) is five times more accurate in predicting whether or not they will graduate college than an applicant’s ACT score. In response to these discoveries, colleges around the country have started to shift towards a more holistic view, where admissions officers take the weight either entirely off of standardized tests or shift the weight onto other components. In addition, according to Crimson Education, regarding the upcoming 2021-2022 admission cycle, there are over 900 test-optional colleges in America. Not only that, the University of California system officially went test-blind in 2019 and has stayed this way since. It is time for the remaining colleges to follow the current trend towards reliability.

Colleges across the nation have identified the weaknesses involved in standardized testing, including the lack of equity, unreliability and cheating. Many have made the switch from requiring such tests to either giving applicants the option to test or not accepting scores. It is time to abolish the use of standardized testing in college admissions to even the playing field for qualified applicants once and for all.

About the Writer
Photo of Maya Passananti
Maya Passananti, Executive Editor

Maya Passananti is a senior and executive editor for El Vaquero. Passananti also leads the art team, is the viewpoint editor and a copy editor. This is her third year on staff.

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