The De-emphasizing of ACT and SAT Test Scores

Senior Mariana Cardenas studies for the SAT during lunch, hoping for good results on her next standardized test.

Senior Mariana Cardenas studies for the SAT during lunch, hoping for good results on her next standardized test.

The necessity for ACT and SAT test scores is changing drastically. Every year, BHS students flock to testing sites in order to take standardized tests. These test scores are reflected in college applications, which is why students strive for high scores that will set them apart from other applicants. Test-takers hire private tutors, take practice tests, and study for endless hours to reach their target scores. They often take both the ACT and SAT, repeating the testing process many times in order to reach their goal. The time and energy that is required to earn outstanding test scores have become a burden on students’ other responsibilities.

For senior Mariana Cardenas, taking tests has affected both her social life and academic achievements. She has taken the SAT three times and the ACT once and feels as if there are more downsides to testing than there are perks. She explains, “the preparation for tests forced me to sacrifice time that I need to spend doing homework for my classes. I spent 40 hours studying to raise my score by only 20 points.”

Students such as Cardenas argue that standardized tests are a waste of time, mainly because they are expressed in one simple number that represents a few short hours of testing. For students who are not skilled test takers, test results do not reflect their academic abilities and especially do not represent their important qualitative characteristics. Cardenas adds, “standardized tests result in a strong disadvantage for those who have test anxiety or students who cannot afford tutors and preparation books.” For all these reasons, the intensive focus on students’ test scores is now being questioned.

Many colleges are beginning to de-emphasize standardized test scores as part of the application with “test optional” and “test flexible” policies. Colleges such as Colby College, Colorado College, Hamilton College, Middlebury College, and New York University have made it optional to send in test scores. Furthermore, Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, has eliminated the option to send test scores completely. There are many thought processes behind these decisions. For one, admissions officers are realizing that there is increasing pressure placed on students to do it all: take AP classes, receive good grades, be involved in clubs, join extracurriculars, etc. It is becoming more clear how much extra pressure tests introduce.

Furthermore, colleges are looking more for students who are unique, well-rounded, likeable people, but test scores are just numeric summaries. While some quantitative information is necessary for the selection process, admissions officers do receive quantitative information from yearly grades. Representatives from the Admissions Office at Hampshire College stress that “discipline, passion, and dedication to learning cannot be discerned from a single test score.” Overall, qualitative information is becoming more emphasized, and students who fail to reflect their academic potential through standardized tests are becoming better represented. The changing system regarding SAT and ACT testing has sparked many different opinions among students at BHS.

Some students agree that standardized tests should be completely eliminated. As Cardenas asserts, “a ‘test blind’ policy would level the playing field for both the students who have testing anxiety and those can’t afford to take or prepare for the tests.” However, others believe that tests should be either optional or required.

Senior Matt Janc believes that “instead of eliminating them completely, colleges should recommend it, making it optional. This would help those who struggle with test-taking while allowing others to show their testing strengths.” Although Janc plans on sending his test scores to colleges, he thinks that his peers should be allowed several options. With more and more colleges leaning towards a “test optional” application, this debate is likely going to linger for future college prospects.

Posted on January 5, 2017 .