• Eitan Zomberg ('22)

Standardized Testing For College Admissions Should Be Abolished

In 1926, Carl Brigham, a professor of psychology at Princeton University, was appointed by the College Board (then an obscure, little-known institution) to lead a committee to design an intelligence test for prospective college students, an exam which would be referred to simply as the SAT. Nearly a century later, it, along with the ACT, remains widely taken by students across the globe; roughly four-million students took one of the two exams last year, which have continued to remain an immensely significant component of the college admissions process. Over the course of the COVID-19 outbreak, many universities have phased out requirements for these tests entirely, as limited access to testing due to social distancing requirements and public fear of spreading the disease has forced institutions of higher education to take a more holistic approach, with some going completely test-blind. This has granted further validity to the increasingly popular movement which seeks to eliminate standardized testing as a means of determining academic worth, which, as a concept, has proven to be an inappropriate tool in assessing academic readiness for institutions of higher learning.

Both the SAT and ACT alike have often been hailed as an effective, objective means of determining student readiness for college. However, such an assumption is invalid, and is undermined by the fact that the content students are tested on often does not align with the Common Core requirements issued by many states. The ACT, for example, freely admits in its own technical manual that roughly 40% of the math questions asked in the exam measure knowledge of content taught prior to eighth grade. An independent report analyzing the SAT found that it too was inadequate; a mere 47% of the math questions asked on it were aligned with the Common Core, demonstrating particularly minimal coverage of subject matter pertaining to geometry and statistics. In short, the exams, in their present form, are not adequately equipped to achieve their intended goal, as they test students on subjects that should appear juvenile to them, while those who excel are forced to suffer through a pointless exam that does nothing but bore them without assessing the breadth of their knowledge.

Further evidence to challenge the supposed fairness of college entrance exams can be found in the score distribution data itself: overall, students coming from poorer households, students of color, and students from households where parents received minimal education typically tended to underperform. The SAT, therefore, further exacerbates the very much extant educational divide between the societally privileged and those not fortunate enough to thrive in the present system, as it creates an additional, unnecessary hurdle that, with a holistic admissions approach, could simply be excised entirely.

More broad, however, is the general charge that standardized tests are ineffective at evaluating students on an individual basis. As tools for measuring general knowledge across a population, they can be used to determine overall gaps in comprehension. However, to determine individual value using such an inflexible test is simply illogical. Students can excel academically in a wide array of ways; to place such a great emphasis on a rigid exam such as the SAT or ACT inhibits colleges’ abilities to assess students on the basis of their creativity, or other traits conducive to academic achievement that do not necessarily correlate to a higher score on standardized tests.

It is time to bring an end to the era of the college entrance exam. We cannot conscionably continue propagating the myth that they have inherent value. To do so would be illogical, foolish, and unjust.


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