Editorial: More Than A Number

by Zoe Tai
Class of 2016

Standardized tests are arduous assessments that many high school students undertake in their college application journey. They have been told that these are the tests that will determine their futures, their dreams, their entire lives… however, this is not entirely true. While standardized tests give a baseline report on a student’s educational capability and knowledge, they can never fully measure the aptitude of each individual.

Most high school students in the United States take the SATs or the ACTs for benchmark data, but what exactly do these scores measure? With the SATs there are three sections: mathematics, reading and writing; none of which can actually measure proclivity for academic success in college. These subjects do not cover the entirety of a student’s profile. Thomas Rochon, president of Ithaca College, explains how “test scores add relatively little to [their] ability to predict the success of students.” These standardized scores do little to contribute to a student’s “college-readiness” and offer insufficient data about a student’s personality and work ethic, factors that ultimately drives success. The quantitative evidence is a reference point, not the deciding factor of an application.

In addition to inaccurately measuring aptitude, the SATs and ACTs have a reputation of being high-stress tests. The anxiety associated with taking one of these tests can negatively affect a student’s performance, resulting in scores that do not adequately reflect their knowledge. Bob Schaeffer, a public education director, reveals how standardized tests favor students with “strong test-taking skills, not necessarily those with other talents that may be more valuable in the classroom or in life.” Those that are gifted at taking standardized tests are robots to the circle filling and grid-lined process and celebrate their success, but for those did poorly but are overall better students it is unfair. While the SAT does implement a block against random answers (-1/4 point subtracted for incorrect multiple-choice, “How the SAT is Scored”) it is not a foolproof barrier to prevent guessing. These tests cannot categorize students merely based on their scores as there are bound to be incongruities in test taking skills that can adversely misrepresent students.

Some colleges have actually removed their standardized test requirements altogether in recognition of test shortcomings. They recognize that these tests do not accurately measure the drive and the personality of a student. George Washington University is the latest school to have adopted the test optional policy, they wanted “to ensure that students with low test scores but strong academics would apply to and enroll in the university” (Edmonds). There are many other factors that are obliterated from review with test scores. Numbers do not define an entire person and this flawed system does not reflect the entirety of an applicant. The new policy that schools adopted can allow students with low scores, admission into their top schools.

Colleges have become more holistic nowadays and standardized tests have become an expensive and stressful formality. While standardized test scores can generalize a population of applicants; it can be hard to distinguish from the raw data alone which students actually worked hard but did not get the score they deserved versus those that are naturally gifted at test taking but have no academic drive. Test scores over-simplify an applicant’s profile and its necessity should be reevaluated in the college process.

Zoe Tai is a student in Advanced Placement English Language and Composition