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  • Ethan Xie

Standardized Testing: A History and My Opinion

The removal of standardized testing requirements such as the SAT and ACT by universities has sparked significant discussion and debate within the realm of higher education. This movement has gained momentum in recent years, driven by concerns about the fairness, equity and predictive validity of these tests in assessing a student's academic abilities and potential for success in college. 

One of the primary arguments against standardized testing is its potential to perpetuate socioeconomic disparities. Critics argue that performance on these tests is strongly correlated with factors such as income, access to quality education and cultural background rather than solely reflecting an individual's academic aptitude. This correlation can disadvantage students from underprivileged backgrounds who may not have access to expensive test preparation resources or come from educational environments that adequately prepare them for these exams.

Furthermore, detractors of standardized testing point to research suggesting that these tests may not accurately predict academic success in college. While standardized test scores have historically been viewed as a reliable measure of a student's preparedness for higher education, some studies indicate that other factors, such as high school GPA and coursework rigor, may be better indicators of future academic performance.

In response to these concerns, an increasing number of universities have adopted test-optional or test-blind admissions policies, allowing students to choose whether or not to submit standardized test scores as part of their application. This shift is partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Some argue, however, that the removal of standardized testing detracts from the college admissions process. Admissions officers argue that they no longer have a standardized, objective way to measure a student’s academic ability without room for teacher favoritism or subjective standards. 

Furthermore, college admissions officers also worry that applying “test-optional” would actually hurt a student of lower socioeconomic status as a score higher than those of the same status would help them stand out. The test requirement can help shine a spotlight on achievers from economically disadvantaged areas and give them a chance to succeed.

Moreover, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reports that standardized test scores are, in fact, an accurate predictor of a student's success in college. “Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT,” said Stu Schmill, Dean of Admissions and Student Financial Services.

As a result, more universities are starting to return to standardized testing. Notable institutions to restore their testing requirements include MIT, Brown starting with the class of 2025, Yale starting with the class of 2025, and Dartmouth starting with the class of 2029. As Ivy League universities continue to restore their testing requirements, many others have followed suit.

I believe standardized testing is beneficial for most students in the application process. Due to its objective nature and ability to predict college success, standardized testing will benefit both admission officers and students. It can also harm your application, however, if you are a bad test-taker. Ongoing changes in standardized testing, such as the transition to a digital, adaptable SAT, will also continue to shape the college admissions process.



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