Test-Optional Colleges Deserve Applause

By Pallavi Kawatra, Opinions Editor

Throughout high school all students take standardized tests, but none are so critical or controversial as the college admissions tests, namely the SAT and ACT exams. These tests, while they offer a level playing field to all college applicants in some respects, do more harm than good. They induce stress in students, which is unnecessary in an already rigorous academic environment.

As a junior who has just endured taking the ACTs and SATs in the last few weeks, on top of AP exams, I have found myself extremely stressed about doing well on these tests rather than focusing on actual learning.

Furthermore they are not an accurate representation of a student’s academic skills and in some cases favor affluent students over low-income students. Because students become so focused on achieving high scores on these tests, they often take classes or get tutored outside of school and spend many hours doing practice tests, which can cause their school averages and overall academic performance to suffer.

On the other hand, in a column for The Hechinger Report, an education publication, titled “The Real Reason Colleges Go ‘Test-Optional’” (Aug. 26, 2015), Stephen Burd discusses the fact that low-income students are at a disadvantage because they do not have the financial means to take prep classes that would help increase their scores; for the most part their scores remain lower. Therefore, on both sides – whether students are taking additional prep classes or can’t afford to take them – standardized testing proves to be detrimental to students.

In a recent The New York Times article titled “The Test Optional Surge” (Oct. 28, 2015), writer Cecilia Capuzzi Simon reports that there are now 850 colleges that are test optional, meaning applicants are not required to send in their standardized test scores. Forty seven colleges jumped on the test-optional bandwagon this year, and 46 percent of the top tier liberal arts schools, such as Wesleyan and George Washington, no longer require test scores. The article claims that the elimination of the requirement of test scores increases the number of applicants by approximately 250. Students do not feel the pressure that their test scores determine their acceptance into a college, but rather feel that they are looked at as a whole student, including extracurriculars and GPA.

Standardized testing has little to no value in my eyes. The tests put an immense amount of pressure on students and are not a way of showing a student’s academic achievements. These tests do not test a student’s creativity, rather how quickly a student can answer math and English questions in a given time period. One test should not be the determining reason for whether or not a student is accepted into a college, and I applaud the colleges that have become test optional.

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