Do Tests Like the ACT and the SAT Still Serve a Purpose?


There have been only a couple times in my life where I’ve wanted to gain my time back. Besides the time when I was four and waited hours for a new episode of Blue’s Clues to come out, only to realize the episode came out the day prior, the ACT has been the most recent example of wasted time I could’ve spent doing anything else. This perspective isn’t due to a poor test score. In fact, I’m not ashamed of my recent scoring, but I don’t believe my performance should matter regarding the blatant fact that standardized testing isn’t a good indicator of future success. To put simply, these test scores should be removed from any and all college application requirements, as their correlation to academic strength isn’t relevant. 

For starters, most colleges have begun taking ACT or SAT scores off their applications. Schools like John Hopkins, Duke, Rice University, Vanderbilt, Georgia Institute of Technology, and all Ivy Leagues have announced that for the next few years, students are not required to submit their scores. This comes after many announcements arguing that COVID-19 had prevented students from being prepared for testing; therefore, making it difficult for more students to score well. So, if the top colleges and universities are finding standardized testing obsolete, why are other schools still requiring them?

It’s not just COVID-19 that can dictate scores, Harvard University put out a statement on the “Application Requirements” section of their website, and said that highschool grades in harder courses are also a good indicator of how well a student may perform. The university also explained that while some students’ background may allow them to put more time and money into things like the ACT or SAT, other students’ socioeconomic status may not. Harvard stated that while looking over applications they, “[keep] in mind that talent is everywhere, but opportunity and access are not.” Someone’s financial situation and upbring can heavily influence their choices on where to go to school. Much of the college application process has to do with experience, and if a poorer student cannot pay for that experience, they may be looked over for a richer student who could. The ACT and SAT can get expensive. The average cost of either test can range from $40-$85. This is not applicable to all students. Colleges and Universities allowing all types of students the opportunity to be accepted regardless of test scores, pushes for diversity and will lead to a larger pool of applicants. 

Regardless of differing opinions on testing, a good score and top placing in one’s graduating class doesn’t mean that student will be successful. In fact, Eric Barker in his book “Barking Up the Wrong Tree,” discusses the topic of highschool valedictorians’ (who on average have an ACT score of 33) performance in college and beyond and found that many students actually fall well below their previous praise in highschool. Barker explained that while most of the valedictorians he followed for research settled into the system and had decent lives, none of them were changing the world or extremely successful. Karen Arnold, professor at Boston College and the author of, “Lives of Promise: What Becomes of High School Valedictorians,”  also found that students who did mediocre in highschool and college, ending up being more successful than all the valedictorians she researched. After surveying over 700 millionaires, Arnold revealed that their average college GPA was 2.9. As Barker puts it, “College grades aren’t any more predictive of subsequent life success than rolling dice. School has very clear rules, but life doesn’t. Life is messy.” 

Clearly, standardized testing isn’t a good way for colleges and universities to base the future success of applicants. If schools want to become inclusive, pivoting away from requiring test scores is the first step. In a modern world full of bright students who are destined to be great, a limiting factor such as a test score should be denounced by all.

Categories: Opinion

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