Stop and Drop? The Debate on Standardized Testing in College Admissions

The UC Schools recently joined the ever-growing list of colleges that dropped all SAT or ACT requirements for the Fall of 2021 application year. With COVID-19 forcing colleges to drop requirements temporarily, the debate over whether or not universities should drop these requirements altogether was rekindled, leaving students and admissions offices with the question: should colleges drop standardized testing?

Yes, colleges should drop the requirement.

Standardized testing should not be required in the admissions process. Studies have shown that it does not accurately or completely demonstrate a student’s potential, as each test only captures a student’s performance in a moment of time. The SAT and ACT also only test around a few general subjects: math, reading, English, and science (not on the SAT), and an optional essay. However, students are not cookie-cutter personalities; many students have passions beyond these subjects, and pursue them in a way not represented through taking these tests. Filling out multiple choice bubbles at one point in time does not fully capture students’ talents and wills to learn.

Standardized testing is also not as fair as it may seem on the surface. There have been too many instances in the past of wealthy students paying test centers or others to cheat for them. The most notable recent scandal involves Lori Loughlin and other celebrities who paid bribes to allow their children to cheat on the SAT and ACT exams. With the possibility of fraud being all too easy for those of wealthy or influential backgrounds, colleges should strike down the chance for some students to dishonestly receive admission through a fraudulent score.

Without reaching the level of complete fraud, economic background can still play a large role in the success of a student on the SAT or ACT. With prep books and classes becoming more and more popular, it is much easier for some students to pay for prep materials and tutors, while for some students, this would be impossible. Although students may be taking their own tests or following the rules, the wealth of their family can still play a determining role in their success on the test, with more well-off students generally scoring higher than those that are less affluent.

Because of the inaccurate indications of students’ academic abilities and overall persona, as well as the role that wealth plays into scores, standardized testing should not be used in college admissions. It is too unfair for it to be a true asset to students’ applications.

No, colleges should not drop the requirement.

Standardized testing is needed in the admissions process. Colleges use standardized testing to assess how well a student might do academically at their university. This ensures that the applicants admitted are good fits for the college; colleges want students to thrive on campus and truly find their classes meaningful and enjoyable. This way, after leaving college, students will be able to make use of what they gain through university learning.

Furthermore, standardized testing gives colleges a perspective on potential admits that cannot be found elsewhere. While many argue that tests are not a good indicator of students as a whole, students’ passions and characteristics can be found in the actual application and essays. Tests like the ACT and SAT are meant to provide missing information to supplement a students’ grades and high school performance. 

While valuable for admissions offices, the ACT or SAT can also be beneficial for applicants. It gives students an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities to work in a high-pressure, timed environment. Since colleges use a holistic approach to review applications, standardized tests can help colleges identify students of exceptional work ethic or ability, especially for students of low-income communities who may not have access to test prep resources. Students who may not have done well in their high school can also use standardized tests to boost their application and show their academic potential. 

With thousands of applicants each year, colleges need a way to evaluate applicants’ academic performance. The high schools that applicants attend are just as unique as the applicants themselves, and so GPA and grades are not always comparable. Standardized testing gives students a level platform to demonstrate their academic prowess and work ethic. With an ACT or SAT score, colleges can properly understand a student’s academic performance and potential.

Because standardized tests provide a level platform for colleges to evaluate students’ academic potentials, they are a vital aspect of the college admissions process. ACT and SAT scores should continue to be used to help colleges identify students with the passion and potential to fit their university.

By Jessica Jiang

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