I am an example of a student who took the elective test route when applying for college, and it opened many doors for me.
No matter how hard I worked, I was never a good candidate. However, on other types of assignments, such as term papers, I performed better. When it came time to apply to college, I only applied to schools that didn’t require the SAT or ACT. Now I am at Trinity College in Hartford fulfilling my lifelong dream of preparing to become a teacher. The optional test route got me where I am today. Therefore, I believe that all colleges and universities should offer optional test admissions.
There are several reasons why it is more inclusive for colleges to have optional test admissions. First, research shows that standardized tests do not accurately measure a person’s intelligence. Second, registration and test preparation are expensive and therefore benefit affluent students. Finally, research shows that there are ways, other than tests, for students to demonstrate what they know.
Although standardized tests are widely used to assess student intelligence, they may not adequately assess student potential. Instead, research shows that there are racial disparities in SAT scores, suggesting the test puts black and Latino students at a disadvantage. A lawsuit against the University of California claims the use of the tests is unfair, given how the test appears to benefit Asian American and white students. Statistics from the College Board, which administers the SAT, show that 55% of Asian American test takers and 45% of white test takers scored 1,200 or higher on the SAT in 2019. For Hispanic and Black students, these figures were 12% and 9%.
Patterns in the data show that Hispanic and Black students are at a disadvantage and falsely suggest that other groups that have the upper hand are “smarter” when in reality we are all equal. Scores reflect whether we have the resources or opportunities to understand how to score high on the SAT and ACT. They measure the use of testing strategies that we need to learn; the only way to do that is to get expensive training that not everyone has the opportunity and the means to take.
The high schools of wealthy or privileged students are more likely to provide SAT and ACT preparation. These students are also more likely to afford top-notch test prep, where they learn, for example, that the Reading and Science sections of the SAT and ACT are all about strategy. For example, when I took an SAT prep class, I was taught to just scan the first sentence and the last sentence of the section I read, and understanding the reading was not important. Preparation and expert guidance are key to doing well on the SAT. However, such preparation is only available to well-to-do students. Online courses cost between $100 and $2,800, while private sessions cost between $1,600 and $8,000.
Finally, students have different strengths. Everyone on earth is unique, just like everyone has unique talents. For some, it’s music, sports or drama. The standardized exam results are just a snapshot of their knowledge. Research shows that GPA or all grades earned in school is a better predictor of college success than standardized tests. GPAs are a set of “efforts over a long period of time, in different types of classes, requiring different types of skills and academic expectations.” Beyond that, teachers who have known the students for years have a better understanding of the student’s potential and what is going on in their life. Therefore, instead of relying on the standardized test, colleges should base their admissions decisions on student GPAs and recommendations from their teachers.
Getting institutions to adopt optional testing policies helps many students. We all deserve a chance at college. I knew I wanted to teach since I was five years old. It was the optional test admissions policies that allowed me to pursue this passion.
Sonia Lau is a second-year student at Trinity College in Hong Kong, majoring in educational studies with a possible focus on special education and psychology.
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