PCP: Is taking the ACT worth it?

Standardized tests bring conflicting views
PCP: Is taking the ACT worth it?
Standardized test scores expand opportunities

As the years have gone by, more and more colleges have become test optional. Standardized test scores that were once a major determining factor in college decisions are rarely required now in fact, for most schools, there is no penalty or drawback in not submitting your scores. However, there are still many benefits to taking the SAT or ACT that are not often recognized.

Standardized tests can improve chances of getting into a good college. Especially when applying to schools that may be difficult to get into. Having good standardized test scores can significantly help students’ chances. Alongside other factors like grades and extracurriculars, above average test scores can show colleges that you are consistent, disciplined and for many students, is a good representation of their academic ability. 

Another huge benefit to taking the SAT and ACT is the opportunity for scholarships. Many schools award scholarships based on test scores. By just taking the test, students can get up to thousands of dollars in aid, which can help pay for admission, textbooks and other costs of living in college. Depending on where you apply, you may be awarded different amounts still, whether it’s a full ride or nothing at all, there is no harm in submitting your score to try and earn a scholarship.

Taking the ACT or SAT is also a good option for students who plan on pursuing higher education. In college, tests get harder this is a good opportunity to practice test taking skills before then. 

Many students that take these standardized tests do not believe that they are a good representation of their academic skills. Although this is understandable, I believe this is not a good reason to opt out of taking the test itself. There is no benefit to opting out, especially at Park.

At Park, every student gets to take one free test. The cost of the ACT, which is typically around 60-90 dollars, is often what defers students from taking it however, the cost does not come out of the pockets of students or their families. Instead, it is paid for by the school. It would be a waste of time and money to not utilize this opportunity. ACT prep books and tools, although helpful, are not necessary to study there are tons of free online resources available to students that can help with practice, and by taking the time to practice, students can use this one free test for all it has to offer.

The ACT, although not necessary to apply to most colleges, can significantly help students’ chances of getting into the college of their choice, get awarded scholarships, and practice test taking. Since there is no penalty to taking the test, it can only serve to help practice and challenge your knowledge.

Standardized test scores prove unhelpful 

After finishing the quite painful and humbling junior year, I can confidently say that taking the ACT was not beneficial for me. On top of drowning in school work from my AP and IB classes, I also had to think about taking the ACT. Scheduled to be taken in early spring, the ACT sneakily snuck up on me and my fellow classmates and really only served as an extra blanket of stress.

While practicing the routine of taking standardized tests can be important, it is not the only thing higher education utilizes in challenging students. Standardized tests only show a fraction of a student’s knowledge. Every student also takes tests differently so if they are a poor test taker, they will not be properly evaluated. 

Since COVID-19, more and more colleges and universities have become test-optional and some have even stopped accepting scores. Since submitting/not submitting a score doesn’t impact your chances of getting accepted into a school, the need for doing well on these tests have exponentially decreased. 

The ACT for me has been the biggest money sucker of my high school career. Whether it was spending money on signing up for a new test date, prep materials or a tutor taking these tests are expensive. Even after spending so much money, I still did not receive that outcome I was hoping for.

Park allows each student to take one test for free but if things go sideways, you are left to fend for yourself in preparing and signing up for future tests. I can note that one of my classes had a day of in-class prep but it honestly didn’t prove beneficial. A single class period to review every kind of math you’ve learned since elementary school is not enough time.

If a school you are applying to cannot see you past your test scores, you do not want to be there. Universities should value one’s character and how students are taking their learning outside of the classroom, rather than how high one scored on a standardized test. A holistic review of students proves to be a much more fair analysis of a students capabilities. 

All in all, while ACT tests can be beneficial in some aspects of applying for college, they are overall not worth the time or money. Students should be focused on keeping up their excellence in their course rigor and grades, rather than a test score. You can retake the ACT/SAT as many times as you want but you can’t always do the same for a class. 

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