Where It All Begins
Junior year. The sweet beginning of the road to college: a road that includes many nights cramming for exams, an exuberant yet demanding schedule, and the standardized tests. Due to the Coronavirus, the journey to college has become skewed. With colleges making the ACT and SAT tests optional this year, many have begun to question the importance of a standardized test in the admissions process.
Those in favor of the tests argue that they usually provide a universal measure of a student’s preparedness for college. The tests allow admission officers to evaluate a student’s academic ability based on how well they do because they are developed through the organizations, ACT Inc. or College Board. Thus, the tests are not biased to one curriculum, and they provide admission officers with a metric method in understanding how intelligent a student is because high schools across the nation use various grading scales.
Standardized Tests v. a Student’s Socioeconomic Status
Although the ACT and SAT provide a standardized way of evaluating students across the nation, they limit a student’s academic ability to be fairly assessed.
ACT claims that their standardized test scores are not drivers of inequity during the college admissions process. However, a student’s ability to perform well on a standardized test is often a result of their socioeconomic status.
Students who come from privileged backgrounds are more likely to have access to educational opportunities like the chance to visit the zoo or attend a summer camp. They also have access to test-prep tutoring which can help boost their scores. Those coming from less privileged circumstances may be more likely to experience financial difficulties making it hard for them to seek help when studying for standardized tests. Children coming from poverty are also more likely to come in contact with social issues like growing up under a single parent, alcoholism, and drug abuse.
Studies conducted by Brookings Research Group have shown that there has been a racial gap between test takers. Hispanics, Latinos, and African Americans have been seen to score lower on the math section of the SAT. They state that this is “a likely result of generations of exclusionary housing, education, and economic policy — which too often means that, rather than reducing existing race gaps, using the test in college admissions reinforces them.”
What’s Next for the Test?
Although standardized testing may not be the best way to evaluate a student’s academic ability, tests are still being considered in the admissions process. Schools across the nation are assessing how accurate standardized tests are in showing a student’s intelligence, and they are trying to figure out alternative methods to the test. For now, students may want to prepare for the tests with added confidence, knowing that whatever their score may be, colleges are reviewing a variety of admissions criteria. Tests are one factor to consider, and that factor may be less significant than in years past.
As colleges and universities adapt to the changes within the college application process due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that they consider how standardized tests may create a heightened sense of inequality as not all students enjoy socioeconomic advantages. Evaluating students off of their test scores is not the right answer.