Is standardized testing an effective way to determine a student’s intellectual ability?



Student bubbling in their answers on a standardized testing answer sheet.

The intellectual capability of students should not be represented by a test that extensively favors students with a skilled ability in timed testing. Time and time again, students have had their academic worth measured by a test with a singular scale that favors a portion of the student population.

While colleges still use tests, such as the SAT and the ACT, as a significant part of college admissions, each year, the priority of the test becomes less and less important. It seems that officials have realized that the test can provide misleading information that may come from students’ scores. 

Many different factors go into the test that affects students’ test results, such as the time, stamina, and other environmental aspects of the test. Students who may have a clear understanding of the test material may be heavily affected by disturbances and overall distractions during the test time. 

By definition, students’ scores on the admissions test measure their knowledge of standard curricular teaching. This information gives colleges and universities an idea of where individual students stand regarding expected knowledge accumulated by their senior year of high school. 

The average SAT score for the class of 2021 was 1060.  This number is based on how many points a student earned on each section of the test. Students can receive between 200 and 800 for the reading, writing and language, math (both calculator and no calculator sections), and an optional essay section. Test-takers are not penalized for getting incorrect answers; they are simply graded for their correct responses. 

Colleges and universities provide an ideal SAT and ACT score that reflects its level of prestigiousness. Suppose a student’s dream school requires a test score that is difficult for them to achieve. In that case, they are encouraged to avoid the admissions because of the inability to meet an expected implication. 

For example, Princeton’s expected SAT scores are between a 740 and 800 in the math section and a 710-770 in the evidence-based reading and writing, according to Princeton University Admissions Statistics. The average scores for 2020 applicants were 528 on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and 523 on the Math section, according to the 2020 College Board Annual Report

The difference between the average score of students and the expected score among applicants is very discouraging for a student with an average test score or even one above average. This can cause a student to withdraw their application because there is little chance of admission.

The usage of standardized testing within admissions gives students with a higher socioeconomic status a greater advantage. Parents who have the ability to provide their child with costly test retakes in order to get a favored grade, gives their kid a great advantage to the SAT or ACT.  One other aspect is how wealthier students can acquire tutors in order to prepare them for the test, and because of this, result in a better test score.  With these examples, it is evident that kids from a lower class may not be exposed to some of the great advantages that students from a higher socioeconomic status are susceptible to.

Test scores do not provide colleges and universities a sample of the unique individualism students bring to campus. A test that determines which students are better test-takers than others aren’t good measures of students’ creativity, interests, devotion, and other crucial aspects that define a good and successful college student.

Some may argue that the standardized test offers students an advantage within the admissions process. If a student’s admissions profile is lacking, and their transcript is not enough to grant them acceptance, their score on either admissions test may be what the student needs to impress their school of choice. The tests can also offer students preparation for future standardized tests that may inflict their career paths. Some of these tests include the LSAT or MCAT. Preparing for the SAT can allow students to acquire testing skills and confidence that may offer them an advantage down the road when considering these other mandatory tests. 

If SAT and ACT scores are used within the test admissions process, it should have a little factor in whether or not students are accepting or rejecting. Other aspects of the student’s profile such as their grades, recommendation letters, essays, and their involvement within their community, should be more telling of a student’s academic capability.

Students should have more of a support system throughout the application process to make the transition as easy as possible. Deciding one’s future is stressful enough without all the weight and pressure of the standardized test. With that being said, to take action on this critical matter, students should write opinion letters to the administrations’ office of said colleges and universities, expressing their concerns. All the while advocating for what they believe will provide students with the most success applying to schools.