Standardized testing: Is it really necessary?
Art by Accolade artist Erin Lee

To get accepted into a prestigious university, you only need to… get a high GPA, have a plethora of extracurriculars, obtain volunteer hours, write an astounding essay, send letters of recommendations while also setting aside schoolwork to study for an advanced standardized testing score.

Simple, right?

Of course, this is somewhat exaggerated (I used the word “somewhat” very lightly). But the reality is that a myriad of colleges expect high school students to go above and beyond in multiple areas outside of just school.

Because of this, standardized testing such as the SAT and ACT can be a looming obstacle for test-takers each month. We already have so much work to do and display our academic performance through our transcripts, so why do we need to have another test to worry about at the end of the day?

Honestly, though, I’m fine with standardized testing. However, I would hope for colleges to not use it as a determining factor for admissions and rather perceive it as a mere reference point that gives a very basic idea as to where the student is academically.

In June, officials from the University of Chicago announced that they were going test-optional — a huge move for a “Top 10” university. Since then, many people have speculated if this move would set a new precedent for other major universities. California State Universities, included, have considered to not make standardized testing an admissions requirement as well, according to the Los Angeles Times.

However, the controversial, long-standing question remains: Should universities change their criteria for admissions to either completely dropping standardized testing or lowering its weight of importance for admissions?

Well, the answer is that standardized testing provides colleges with an objective, national point of reference for a student’s academic capabilities. This way, colleges can more easily compare students with one another on an equal basis. A student who takes rigorous classes may not receive the most desirable grade in the class but can demonstrate his or her potential through this testing. On the other hand, a student with inflated grades can give colleges a more accurate perspective on his or her academic achievement. Ultimately, universities garner a more complete sense of you as a student.

It can also be a point of salvation for some students: Nearing the end of junior year and the beginning of senior year, your grades are basically fixed values. However, if you’re unsatisfied with your results, you can somewhat alleviate your standings academically through an impressive test score.

Standardized testing definitely has unfair aspects. For instance, timed testing simply isn’t every student’s strong points, and it’s disadvantageous for colleges to judge applicants simply for that. Not only that, but students who receive advanced scores on testing may have had a personal tutor or attended a specialized academy for it. Not everyone can afford extensive tutoring that costs $70 an hour on average, according to tutors.com. Because of this, an economic gap between test-takers — an external, seemingly irrelevant factor — can significantly intervene with the “objectivity” of the SAT and ACT since scores can be influenced by certain factors that cannot be helped by students.

Some may argue that people who lack tutoring resources can simply buy popular studying books such as The Princeton Review or Barron’s for proper preparation, but most of my friends and I, too, find that those texts do not provide much assistance in improving standardized testing scores. The few practice tests released by the SAT and ACT can sometimes not be enough, either.

With the University of Chicago already stepping into a test-optional world, who knows what will happen in the near future. I challenge colleges to look beyond standardized testing and maybe even work to completely eliminate it from the admissions decision, focusing on just grades for academics.

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