Head-to-Head: Eliminating the SAT

Pro: Eliminating the SAT will further inequality

At the height of the pandemic, when universities gradually released new test-optional admission policies, I was thrilled. I didn’t get my ideal SAT score, and this new landscape of college admissions opened new possibilities to apply to more selective colleges that normally need a high score to yield admission.

But after applying to colleges in the fall, I realized that SAT scores are a necessary component to a holistic college application. While I still believe testing material should be altered to account for racial and socioeconomic bias, considering an objective test such as the SAT or ACT in admissions reduces inequality, curves consistently declining acceptance rates, and provides an objective measure of student achievement amid diverse curriculums around the country.

An often-used argument about abolishing standardized testing is that students of a higher-income family can pay for a better score through tutoring or commodified prep work. While this is a valid argument, removing standardized testing from the college admissions process is the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a large, gaping wound. Every step of the admissions process is riddled with advantages for students of a higher-income status. Not a great writer? Pay for an essay tutor! Need help describing your activities on Common App? Hire a college consultant!

Eliminating standardized testing based on the argument that it is unfairly promotes results based on economic status will do little to create more equity within the admissions process–and eliminates a valid way for students who can’t pay for an essay tutor or college consultant to show achievement, especially with the rise of affordable test preparation programs such as Khan Academy.
This year, according to a list by FairTest, over 75% of colleges did not require an SAT or ACT score in their admissions. The result: the number of applicants skyrocketed while the number of acceptances dropped.

Test-optional admissions make it more difficult to get into college. In addition, a standardized testing requirement provides an objective reading of student performance–an important measure amid the diverse range of curriculums and teaching styles around the nation. Not every student has access to AP classes, and with grade inflation varying from school to school, it’s important that one common assessment is applied to each applicant.

But all these factors considered, it is imperative to acknowledge the race and socioeconomic gap in SAT scores. Despite efforts to reduce inequality, white and Asian students consistently outperform all other races on the SAT math section.

In addition, experts found that family income is a good predictor of a student’s score. But instead of scrapping the test altogether, which would eliminate visible discrimination in favor of more opaque inequity, we need to attack the root of the problem. Improving access to fortified preschool programs, pursuing paid leave policies to encourage parent investment during childhood, and increasing cash transfers to disadvantaged parents with young children are all policy changes that would reduce the race gap in testing and create a more equitable admissions process. Abolishing standardized testing is not the answer; attacking inequality from a community-based, systemic method is.


Con: Standardized testing is a waste of time

When students return from spring break, most of them will be exchanging  pristine beaches and temperate climates with the sharpening of number two pencils and the incessant ticking of clocks. This is because on the first day back from spring breaks, all students except seniors will be forced to take standardized tests.

As students sit in the gymnasium, half comatose, filling in answer after answer on a scantron sheet as seconds tick by, many wonder if this is a valid use of their time. 

My answer to this is that standardized testing is certainly a waste of time. 

A major problem with standardized testing is the exceptional amount of pressure it places on students, creating more stress than they’re prepared to handle. According to the National Institute of Health as much as 40 percent of students have reported anxiety related to standardized testing. This is exacerbated by how early we begin sitting through standardized tests. Younger students don’t have the emotional maturity to deal with this stress as well as older students can. 

Another flaw with standardized testing is that, for many students, it doesn’t properly capture their true level of academic success. In fact, 90 percent of high schoolers at East said in a recent poll by the Vision that they don’t think standardized tests accurately reflected a students intelligence. This could be because of many things, from not being able to perform well under pressure to being a slow test taker.

Even socio-economic conditions can hamper a students performance on standardized tests, as wealthier students generally have a better education and access to better study materials. According to Fobes, a recent study found that students with a household income of over $100,000 scored, on average, 100 points better on the SAT than students whose families made less than $25,000 per year. 

And the effects of this inaccuracy can be detrimental, as a lot of importance is placed on standardized test scores, such as determining whether a student gets into advanced classes. And even now, as many colleges are becoming test optional, colleges still take into account scores that they do get, and there’s no guarantee that these schools remain test optional for more than the next few years.

Another detrimental effect of standardized testing is that it has often had the effect of discouraging people from being creative. “The overemphasis on testing has led many teachers to eliminate projects and activities that provide students with an opportunity to be creative and imaginative,”  Ron Maggiano, a veteran teacher, said in an article for the Washington Post.

Given all of this we are left with one simple question. Should we really abide by a system that siffles creativity, doesn’t accurately reflect many students’ intelligence, and puts students under exceptional pressure? Clearly, the answer is no.