Examining the Exams Featured Opinions

Staff Editorial: Standardized testing should be optional, play smaller role in college admissions

Photo Illustration by Bryce Owen

The Issue: Universities like George Washington University are eliminating standardized testing requirements for their admissions process.
Our Stance: Standardized testing should be optional and should play less of a role in college admissions.

Although standardized test scores certainly help colleges sift through the thousands of applications they receive a year, too great an emphasis on tests harms both students and administrators.

In July of this year, George Washington University announced that applicants for the school year of 2016-17 and beyond will not be required to submit standardized test scores in applications. The Roundup applauds this decision because grades reflect a student’s potential better than a single test.

Among other things, teachers and students alike say that standardized tests are one of the greatest causes of stress among teenagers and that they do not always accurately measure a student’s knowledge.

In fact, Columbia University warns that “standardized tests can place a huge amount of stress on students and teachers alike,” and that “this can lead to negative health consequences as well as feelings of negativity directed at school and learning in general.”

Unfortunately, this is all too true, as it is well known that standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT can induce anxiety-related symptoms such as stomach aches, panic attacks, crying and even vomiting in some cases.

Besides causing unhealthy amounts of stress, standardized tests fail in accurately measuring knowledge.

Think about it:

When you take a test such as the SAT, are you really demonstrating your knowledge in the subjects being tested? Or are you just demonstrating your knowledge of the test that you spent hours studying for and analyzing?

If it seems like there is gray area, it is because there is one.

Also, standardized tests are representations of one day of work, and some students are better test takers than others.

This means that when colleges value standardized tests as high as Grade Point Average, they equate performance on a single day with that of at least three years.

Consider this also: When you take the ACT or SAT a second or third time and you see a higher score, does that score reflect a growth in knowledge of the subjects being tested? Or does it represent the fact that you understand the test better now that you’ve taken it multiple times?

For most people, the answer is obviously the second option.

The SAT and ACT really are unlike every other test a student will take, and for this reason students will simply learn the concepts for a one or two-time use, not really taking any new knowledge to heart or demonstrating any knowledge they have gained throughout their high school careers.

Despite their good intentions, standardized tests do not encourage students to demonstrate true knowledge or their capacity to use said knowledge to work through an unforeseen problem.

Rather they force students to churn singular fragments of knowledge so that they can score better on tests and so that colleges can perceive them as “smarter,” when in fact that may not even be the case.

So why do colleges continue requiring standardized testing if it causes so much stress and it fails to serve as a metric for student intellect?

The reason is that proponents of standardized testing say that the objectivity of these tests helps the government gauge which areas are underperforming and need help.

According to Columbia University, “Standardized testing allows students located in various schools, districts and even states to be compared. Without standardized testing this comparison would not be possible.

However, this argument is weak because the government can look at average GPAs as well as funding to see which schools are truly doing well. This gives a better representation anyway, because some schools are notorious at teaching to a test.

Colleges should follow the example set by George Washington University and make standardized testing optional so that students have more freedom in choosing how their application is viewed.

In addition, colleges should place greater emphasis on studying student transcripts and organizing student interviews.

Student transcripts, as studies have proven, are a more accurate representation of how intelligent or hardworking a student is, and interviews provide an actual insight into the applicant rather than just treating him as a sum of raw data.

From what we’ve gathered, the SAT and ACT hardly, if at all, measure your overall intelligence. They measure only the skills you have learned to pass the test.

Intellect is an extremely complex phenomenon. In fact, experts disagree over whether it can measured at all.

And it is our stance that it cannot be accurately understood through a single standardized test.

By Cameron Bray ’16 and Anthony Cardellini ’17

Staff editorials represent the view of The Roundup. Share your thoughts by e-mailing roundup@brophyprep.org or leave comments online at roundup.brophyprep.org