Standardized Testing: Valid or Useless?

Article by: Olivia R.

Edited by: Alexis L.

Visual by: Yana P.

The SATs and ACTs are a major source of stress for the students applying to the USA. Students pay thousands on SAT and ACT tutors, spend hours on end revising for a test, and lose hours of sleep each night. But is all this effort even worth it?

One afternoon, I walked into a review center to sign up for a standardized test tutor. He told me, “Oh, don’t worry too much about it. It’s not about how smart you are, it’s about how well you take the test.” This hit me hard; so, having a good score wasn’t a measure of my intelligence, but a measure of how well I was able to crack the “code” of answering? Why, then, was I going to pay for a tutor and slave away to raise my score? Was it just about getting into college?

Some US colleges require applicants to submit their standardized testing scores, but how valid can these tests be? Students sit for four hours at a time shading hundreds of tiny circles. This allows a student to simply pick the answer that seems the least wrong, especially since points sometimes aren’t deducted for guessing. I believe that a multiple choice test cannot represent a student’s ability: today’s students are future athletes, musicians, mathematicians, lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs in the making, but all their abilities are measured through one multiple choice test. Furthermore, this means that in theory, someone who did not study at all could randomly guess on the test and receive a perfect score. While the chances of this are pretty slim, with the entire world population that’s been taking the tests, this could have happened to at least one person. The College Board’s own statistics show a correlation between a student’s SAT scores and their family income, suggesting that the standardized testing system really is a fluke.

Thankfully, colleges in the USA are beginning to recognize that standardized tests don’t truly hold any value. Recently, more and more schools have ceased requiring the scores. Even Harvard stopped requiring the essay portions of the tests (though they still require the multiple choice part). However, the process of getting US college admissions officers to understand the pointlessness of these tests is a slow burn. As Alfie Kohn said, “Individual scores don’t reflect a student’s intellectual depth… It is not a measure of aptitude or of subject-area competency.”