Should the ACT/SAT be optional?

As Spring rolls around, Juniors are beginning to prepare for and take standardized tests. Almost all colleges require students to submit a SAT or ACT score and more selective colleges usually require or strongly encourage students to take two to three SAT subject tests as well. Colleges should stop using standardized tests for admissions because they do not show anything about intelligence and they discriminate against lower income students.

A study led by William Hiss, Former Dean of Admissions for Bates College, found that people who did not submit their test scores to colleges “were more likely to be minorities, women, students with Learning Differences, Pell Grant recipients and first-generation college-goers.”

Students who come from families with more money have many more opportunities to prepare for standardized tests. They can sign up for prep classes, purchase test-prep books, and get private tutoring. Student from lower-income households cannot always afford these materials. Therefore students from higher income families may perform better on standardized tests just because they were able to pay for better study materials, not because they are smarter.  

Doing well on the SAT/ACT is not necessarily based on intelligence. Learning the tricks to the test is often times the best way to do well. That’s why students spend so much time taking practice tests instead of memorizing facts. Learning tricks for the test can be challenging and often requires students to have access to resources.

Furthermore, standardized tests do not necessarily show intelligence. According to Hiss’ data, good test scores do not mean good grades. The data showed that students with good grades and mediocre test scores did better in college than students with good test scores and mediocre grades. Grades can show student’s academic ability and hard work across 4 years. Test scores are the outcome of a few hours in a room on a Saturday morning.

Additionally, it’s easy for students to base their self-worth and how “smart” they are off of test scores. Students could decide not to apply to certain colleges because they do not think they’re good enough to get in. I have seen classmates take standardized tests over and over again because they believe they have to get a certain score to be competitive in college’s application pools.

Some colleges have become test-optional which means that students can choose whether they send their test scores or not. At the moment, about 850 colleges are test optional and the number is growing. Notably, the University of Chicago (UChicago), a very prestigious university with an acceptance rate of 7 percent has recently become test optional. This is a huge step in the right direction as many students assume that they must have a near perfect SAT/ACT score to get into UChicago and other similar schools. Hopefully, other schools will follow in UChicago’s footsteps and become test-optional.