Standardized testing cons; colleges are dropping SAT, ACT

De Cito Eindtoets Basisonderwijs.A growing number of colleges and universities are abandoning standardized tests in favor of other qualifications for college admission, in an effort to boost college acceptance rates and because SAT scoring is often not a true test of a student’s knowledge. Roughly a quarter of colleges and universities have become “test optional” or “test flexible.” Prospective students now have more options of where to go to school, yet without the standardized test scores, they will have to shine in other areas of admission criteria.

Why schools reject standardized tests

In his article in the June 25, 2002, issue of Christian Science Monitor on, “A New Look for SATs: a) Improve Students’ Writing b) Put Certain Groups at a Disadvantage c) Make More Money for Test-Prep Firms d) All of the Above,” Mark Clayton said, “Though the SAT has been around since 1926, it gained its central place in the admissions process only in the 1960s… But opponents have complained the test is too biased, too ‘coachable,’ and prone to screening out lower-income and minority students who cannot afford expensive test preparation.” Clayton added that a growing number of elite schools believe the SAT is not predictive of a student’s success in college.

“What can a college admissions officer safely predict about the future of a 17-year-old?” said Joseph A. Soares, Professor of Sociology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; an advocate for test-optional admissions. “Are the best and the brightest students the ones who can check off the most correct boxes on a multiple-choice exam? Or are there better ways of measuring ability and promise?”

Test anxiety is a right of passage, but not valuable

Another problem with standardized tests: “Test anxiety is a real phenomenon and … those tense hours in a stale-aired gymnasium aren’t reflective of a person’s work ethic or aptitude. A select number of students recognize that angst early on, and they fight the test as a point of pride,” reported Michael W. Wilner in “Getting In Without the SAT,” March 1, 2013, in The New York Times blog The Choice.

Many schools aren’t abandoning tests altogether

Many of these colleges are not eschewing all tests altogether. For example, Middlebury College in Vermont requires students to submit three SAT Subject Tests (tests that measure students’ knowledge and skills in particular subject areas) in place of the standard requirements. A majority of schools still require standardized test scores for certain students, such as international students and students applying for scholarships.

The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) explains: “Some schools exempt students who meet grade-point average or class rank criteria while others require SAT or ACT scores but use them only for placement purposes or to conduct research studies. Please check with the school’s admissions office to learn more about specific admissions requirements.”

FairTest lists nearly 850 colleges and universities that either do not require SAT or ACT test scores or de-emphasize the use of standardized tests in their admissions decisions.

Consequences of test-optional schools

Without SAT and ACT, schools are putting more emphasis on student achievements, such as grade point average, entrance essays, interviews, scholastic and extracurricular activities and recommendations. As expected, the schools that have gone test optional are experiencing an increase in admissions applicants, from students who previously had thought that their options for a school that would accept them were highly limited.

As a result, “Officers will spend hundreds of hours mulling over thousands of essays, recommendations, and GPA’s, throwing mediocrity to the wayside. Extraordinary applications may become ordinary, simply due to the sheer number of them that are submitted,” warned Roger Ochoa, Director of Chyten Tutors & Test Prep of Montclair, in the August 5, 2013, article “Applying to College: No SAT or ACT Required?” in Mediocre students will have to find more ingenious ways to impress their prospective institution.

Would you have changed your choice of college if you knew you didn’t have to submit SAT scores?’s Sociology of Education section offers more resources for learning about standardized testing.

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