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An increasing number of colleges are adopting standardized test-optional policies

2023.11.10 00:07:53 Daniel Nam

[Standardized Testing, Photo Credit to Unsplash]

Standardized testing is becoming a less prevalent aspect of the college admissions process, with the majority of universities in the United States opting for test-optional or test-blind policies to create a more equitable application process and environment within their campus gates.


This testing format, which was created to build foundational elements of consistency, possesses the exact questions and criteria for students worldwide, putting all students who take them on the same scale for colleges to measure.


The most well-known Western examples of standardized testing are the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and the American College Test (ACT), each being one of the most important prerequisites of a student’s US college application.


The SAT covers the two core topics of mathematics and English, with Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, and Precalculus included under the math section and reading, writing, and language/grammar tested by the English portion.


Similarly, the ACT also contains mathematics and English but differs from the SAT due to an additional science category.


Colleges have historically viewed these scores as valuable indicators for predicting a student’s academic abilities, even offering scholarships or enabling students to save money by waiving General Education classes (the first step of earning a degree).


So why are 80% of universities now adopting test-optional policies, and the prevalence of these standardized tests declining?


Although standardized testing seems fair on the surface, several studies by critics have found that students who do well on these tests may hold unequal learning opportunities and have more resources due to socioeconomic factors compared to their lesser-performing counterparts.


According to a report published by Inside Higher Ed, “The lowest average scores were those with less than $20,000 in family income, and the highest averages were those with more than $200,000 in income, and the gaps were significant” 


Furthermore, most of these underprivileged students tend to be people of color, including African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, and Native Americans, perpetuating inequality and racial disparities within the college application process.


By doing away with standardized testing, universities aim to consider a broader range of factors, such as an applicant’s unique circumstances through their personal essay, overall academic performance, extracurriculars, awards, etc., with the aim of ultimately creating a more inclusive and diverse campus.


In other words, opponents of standardized testing emphasize the narrow assessment that the SAT and ACT bring to the table, as they neglect significant components of a student’s application, such as creativity.


Another pertinent reason standardized testing is declining in importance in college applications is the growing recognition that educators often feel pressured to “teach to the test,” where students are more likely to memorize the structure and formatting of the test rather than understand the material these standardized tests are designed to assess.


Thus, a student’s results on these tests do not necessarily reflect the true breadth of their knowledge, and the tests’ objectives become essentially meaningless.


In conclusion, while standardized testing still remains a prevalent aspect of the college admissions process, these colleges and universities are exploring alternative methods of assessing a student’s application to practice a more equal approach to those of less fortunate socioeconomic backgrounds and consider a more holistic admissions procedure where students’ fortes are demonstrated most prominently.

Daniel Nam / Grade 9
Jones International Christian School