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Standardized test scores should remain optional when applying to college

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(Photo by biologycorner on Flickr)

This past year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, taking standardized tests such as the ACT and the SAT was much more difficult. As a result, colleges and universities made sending these scores optional, which made the application process much easier. As COVID-19 vaccines are distributed and the virus’ danger decreases, most colleges will likely reinstate their policies of required test scores. This should not happen. Rather, sending test scores should remain optional when applying to college.

Throughout this week, I determined the general consensus of Gonzaga seniors on this subject by conducting an albeit small anonymous survey that gave 15 seniors a chance to share their opinions on the usefulness of standardized testing, its benefits and its faults. The results of the survey showed that more than 50% of students believe that standardized tests do not accurately measure a person’s abilities, knowledge of the subject matter or intelligence. This same poll also showed that the majority of students do not think that test scores, in their current format, should be mandatory when applying for college.

These opinions stem from several attributes of standardized testing. First, and most importantly, it is extremely difficult to judge a student’s academic abilities on a single test. High school is four years long, and a multiple-hour-long test can not possibly condense dozens of grades into one accurate score. Furthermore, standardized tests do not judge knowledge on the subjects being tested. Rather, they test students’ ability to take the test well, and only those students earn the best scores. This is not the tests’ only problem; though math sections, for instance, are straightforward and objective, the reading and English sections are overly subjective. Every student has a different writing style, and objective, multiple-choice answers to open-ended questions do not tell the whole story. 

Despite the problems with standardized testing, some positives must be acknowledged. Some students are naturally good test takers, and these tests allow them to show this. High test scores may provide an extra reason for colleges to admit students. Due to the nature of this country’s school system, grading scales and education quality are vastly different. For this reason, a universal, national test is beneficial in order to compare both education systems and individual test scores throughout the country. Though these are compelling, valid arguments, the point remains: sending test scores to colleges should not be mandatory.

When applying to colleges, students show how they are ideal candidates for admission through their grades, extracurricular activities, accolades and test scores. If a student is a poor test taker, his low scores will stick out, and this may be seen as a red flag. Sending test scores should be a way for students to show that they are good test takers, and if a student is not, he may show his abilities through other means. Additionally, a study conducted by the Urban Institute found that high school GPA has a strong relationship with the probability of high school and college graduation. According to the study, students with low test scores and high GPAs graduate from college at a rate of 62%, while students with high test scores and low GPAs graduate at a rate of 39%. A high GPA is much more conducive to success in college than high test scores.

Sending test scores when applying to colleges should not be mandatory because they do not tell the whole story, do not allow for creativity and do not give much indication of success in college. If you would like to see change, get involved. Send letters to college admissions and talk to your friends. To remove this requirement, colleges need to know that this system does not work.

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