Are Colleges Moving Away from Standardized Testing?

To many families, the SAT and ACT are practically synonymous with college admissions.

From a young age, students are conditioned to believe that a “good” or “bad” score on these exams has the potential to make or break their entire future.

But there are more than a few problems with the SAT and ACT. It’s important to remember that these tests aren’t the end-all-be-all of college admissions. And they certainly don’t define a student’s entire breadth of academic abilities.

Now, thanks to a trend known as the test optional movement, more colleges are responding to the demand for better ways to evaluate students.

The Problems with Standardized Testing

Advantages students who take tests well

To some extent, the SAT and ACT measure a student’s ability to perform well on the exam as opposed to measuring their understanding of specific concepts. Because the reality of the situation is that. . .

Some students are simply not strong test-takers.

Some students may perform well with unlimited time but struggle to work within the timed limits of the tests.

Some students who struggle with focus and attention may have difficulty maintaining the stamina for these long tests.

In all these instances, a student’s circumstances may result in a score that is an inaccurate reflection of their knowledge and capabilities.

Disadvantages students from less privileged socioeconomic backgrounds

Students from less privileged socioeconomic backgrounds may also face challenges with the SAT or ACT.

The tests have been criticized for having implicit cultural, racial, and gender bias. One lawsuit filed against the University of California argued that using the SAT and ACT violates the state’s anti-discrimination statute.

Poorer students are also more likely to attend high schools with less rigorous curriculum and fewer high-quality teachers. So when it comes time to take the SAT or ACT, they may not be as prepared for the content of the tests as their peers in other schools.

Taking the test in English (if it is not a student’s first language) adds yet another layer of complexity to the issue.

Exposes students to test companies’ self-interested business practices

Private test companies’ for-profit operations may not always align with students’ best interests. For example, test companies aim to sell as many exams as possible, despite common knowledge that testing can fatigue students.

Then there’s the issue of test security and privacy. Students may opt into having their personal data sold to colleges without even knowing what they’re agreeing to.

The Test Optional Movement

In response to problems with standardized testing, organizations like The National Center for Fair and Open Testing are encouraging colleges to treat applicants as ‘More Than a Score‘ by supporting test optional admissions.

When a school goes test optional, it means that applicants aren’t required to submit standardized test scores to be considered for admission. (It’s important to note, however, that test optional schools will still consider scores if applicants choose to submit them. So if an applicant’s scores are strong, it’s likely that their chances of admission could improve.)

If there’s any silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic from an academic perspective, it’s that the chaos of the last year accelerated the test optional movement. As SAT and ACT exam dates were cancelled indefinitely, more schools chose to make tests optional.

Many schools are continuing to go test optional for the foreseeable future. In fact, 1,500+ accredited 4-year colleges and universities have optional testing policies for Fall 2022 admissions.

Deciding Whether or Not to Take the SAT or ACT

With the option to forgo standardized testing entirely, students and their families are left wondering if they should still take the SAT or ACT.

For now, Signet recommends carrying on with test prep and standardized testing for almost all students. Why? Because if a student has strong test scores to submit, those scores can give them a boost in the admissions process. We’d hate for students to miss out on attending their dream school if submitting their SAT or ACT score could have made the difference.

It remains to be seen how the test optional movement will evolve in the years to come. But we’ll be monitoring it closely to continue providing the best recommendations to students.

If your student is worried about reaching their target score for the SAT or ACT, Signet is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our one-on-one tutoring and test prep services!

Picture of Sheila A.

Sheila A.

Sheila Akbar is President & COO of Signet Education. She holds a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Harvard University and two doctoral degrees from Indiana University. She joined the team in the summer of 2010, bringing with her a wealth of experience teaching SAT, ACT, GRE, literature, and composition in both one-on-one and classroom settings.

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