Standardized testing dehumanizes college applicants

Colleges should opt to stay test-optional


Anya Panday

For years, the SAT and ACT have been a battle every high school junior has had to face. It was known to be the key to college admissions — a perfect score was sure to get you into any college of your choosing. But with COVID-19, standardized testing became complex, and many colleges opted to temporarily become test-optional, raising the question, why not stay test-optional permanently?

As of right now, 1,785+ schools are currently test-optional. Standardized testing has many downfalls, such as the pressure it puts on students and the economic inequities it enforces. It’s no secret that standardized testing is controversial, even to its creator Fredric J. Kelly, who said, “these tests are too crude to be used and should be abandoned.” 

Standardized testing creates immense pressure on students to perform better than their peers. Students spend hours and hours doing practice tests and studying, which often causes unnecessary stress. Furthermore, it takes away time students could spend studying for their classes and increases their workloads. Because the SAT/ACT dictates something as important as college admissions, many students feel intense anxiety and fear around the test. These tests also fail to account for factors unique to students, such as home life, mental health and access to resources.

The SAT/ACT is often considered a strategic test, where students benefit from taking numerous practice tests and drilling rules into their heads. This often means that students with better economic situations often perform better than their peers who cannot access the same resources. Access to tutors, textbooks and practice tests are an undeniable advantage, but they can often come at a hefty price. Less affluent students are often left to fend for themselves, and have fewer resources to help them prepare, resulting in an unfair dynamic within standardized testing. In some schools, SAT costs aren’t covered, so some students can’t afford to take the SAT/ACT. This can lead to a disparity in the scores between students — where students who are better off aren’t necessarily better at test-taking than their less fortunate peers.

Standardized tests like the SAT/ACT are often ineffective at showcasing a student’s abilities. With a reading section, a math section and a free write section, students whose strengths lie in science and social studies are often unrepresented and left at a disadvantage. Pursuing humanities and science in college can be difficult with poor test scores, even if those tests aren’t representative of the qualities important to your chosen major.

These tests are ineffective in representing a student’s qualities, intellect and ability to learn for colleges. Instead of encouraging students to grow their interests, pursue their aspirations and challenge themselves, both within and outside of school, these tests show students that learning is only as important as the grade they get. Staying test-optional after COVID-19 will give students the much-needed opportunity to be seen as the humans they are, and not as a test score.