No Test Scores? No Problem
Time and time again, students have rallied against standardized testing. These exams hold the power to grant you admission to college but can destroy your chances just as swiftly.
The pressure to prepare for these tests is stress that should no longer be endured. Admissions should take a more holistic approach, and not place priority on a single test. With this concept in mind, USF has decided to join more than 1,000 other accredited universities to become a test-optional institution. I applaud the University for taking this stand.
Testing is the least important aspect of a student’s profile. Their dedication to volunteering, their grades throughout all four years of high school and any extracurriculars are more important than test scores. Colleges should judge a potential student on these aspects alone, rather than to include a standardized test. In four years, students have the opportunity to develop their interests through the places they decide to volunteer and extracurricular activities they engage in. The grades they earn throughout this time is a better reflection of their efforts than one test they are required to take. Regardless of their score, a single test cannot capture four years of knowledge the way all those other factors can.
William Hiss, the former dean of admissions at Bates College, conducted a study where he found that students with good grades and modest testing did better in college than students with higher testing and lower high school grades.” Four years speak louder and clearer than three hours.
Getting a good score on the SAT is more about money than intelligence. Test-prep books, private tutoring and practice test sessions can add up. Acing the exams has become an individual discipline that many people can’t afford. The willingness and sacrifice of several students and parents to invest money in the means necessary to achieve a high score on this test is what sets it apart from everyday tests to state-wide assessments. For that reason, in the eyes of those that can afford it, it is worth the cost of the tools that will give students the score they seek.
A standardized test score does not achieve what most colleges are looking for: a well-rounded person whose strength of character and individuality are molded by what they’ve learned in extracurriculars. Students list it in their resumes but extracurricular activities can demonstrate this through their personal statements.
It should be encouraging for prospective students to know that, in their admissions process, USF is looking beyond a single test and instead focusing on other parts of an applicant’s profile. This gives the opportunity for students to emphasize character and for colleges to slowly move away from an archaic, impractical test that inaccurately identifies qualified students.
Get Your Hands off Standardized Testing
I get it — both the SAT and ACT suck. When I was applying to colleges last year, I remember repeatedly asking myself, “why do we need these tests?”
As it turns out, these standardized tests are not supposed to measure one’s merits, but rather predict the success of a student in their first year of college. According to researchers from the University of Minnesota, scores on the SAT correlate with college GPA around 67% of the time.
With that said, USF announced last month that it is joining over 1,000 four-year colleges and universities in making the SAT and ACT optional for admission.
Here is where USF got it wrong.
In their press release, the University noted the correlation between one’s SAT score and their income, which comes from lack of prep resources, something the University is trying to move away from. FairTest, an educational organization critical of standardized testing, writes that the best way to evaluate applicants is via, “high school performance.” This is where the problem lies, as grade inflation isn’t taken into account.
What is grade inflation? One example is a teacher giving out higher grades than what students deserve. This artificially increases student performance and poses a problem, as the “rate of inflation” varies from school to school, so an “A” at one institution might not be equivalent to an “A” at another in terms of rigor or work completed. With the SAT and ACT, students take the same test, thus colleges have a standard evaluation metric free of grade inflation.
This is not a new trend. A study conducted by researchers Michael Hurwitz and Jason Lee found that from 1998 to 2017, the average high school GPA has risen 0.11 points and the number of students who claim to have an “A” average rose from 39% to 47%. The same study points out that during this time period, the average SAT score dropped 24 points. With the increase in the number of high grades being awarded, it would be expected that test scores would increase or stay the same. They didn’t.
Without SAT and ACT scores, the admissions process is looking to be a race to the bottom where schools will start to choose students who have the best grades that may be artificially inflated.
The solution is not to rid the role of test scores from the process, but rather reduce the weight it has in the decision calculus of admissions officers as the scores provide important information to admission officers in the face of rampant grade inflation. Or even making the SAT and ACT free for all and requiring students to take it in order to graduate to combat inequality.
Ultimately, USF is noble in its goal to enroll a diverse class by getting rid of the requirement to submit test scores, but their efforts may accomplish exactly the opposite of what they set out to do, as it is the students at the top who take advantage of schools being test-optional, which exacerbates the inequality in the status quo.