Go Test Optional

Joe Chase

For fourteen days a year, high school students across America spend their Saturday mornings taking standardized tests. Most colleges require either the SAT or ACT as a part of the admissions process. However, the practicality of the tests’ true ability to test someone’s potential has come into question lately.

In 1926, founded by Carl Brigham, the SAT was used as an IQ test for Army recruits. Originally termed the Army Alpha, it began to be used for the college admissions process to determine intelligence in a fair manner. The ACT was created in 1959 by Everett Franklin Lindquist to emphasize practical knowledge, as opposed to the SAT which tested theoretical knowledge. Between the two tests, they both are about three hours in length and cover English and math, but the SAT has two math sections and is scored out of 1600 while the ACT has a science section and is scored out of 36.

Over the years, more than 700 colleges have switched to “test optional”, including several elite colleges like Wake Forest University and Brandeis University along with many Jesuit institutions such as Xavier and Marquette Universities. These recent changes have raised the question as to whether standardized testing actually tests intelligence. The SAT and ACT cannot determine a person’s effort levels throughout high school that can lead to success in college. Many motivated students put in hours of hard work studying into the early morning to maintain a healthy grade point average, but their standardized test scores do not correspond with their GPA. On the other hand, students who are naturally gifted at test-taking put in the bare minimum and do not challenge themselves, yet they receive optimal scores.

Wake Forest published on their website saying, “there has been no difference in academic achievement at Wake Forest between those who submitted scores and those who declined to do so”. As one of the more selective colleges in the United States, Wake Forest claims to not see any variation academically between those who do submit their scores and those who do not. At Bates College, former dean of admissions William C. Hiss performed a study concluding that minorities are more likely to not submit test scores. Wake Forest also published on their website that they have seen a 68% increase in ethnic diversity since the switch in 2008. At the University of Chicago, they allow students to submit work that best represents the student rather than submitting their SAT or ACT scores. The small but competitive liberal arts school Pitzer College in California switched to test-optional in 2003 after studies showed no correlation between high standardized tests scores and success at Pitzer. The incoming 2018 freshman class was made up of 57% of students who chose to submit their tests scores and 42% of students who did not. Multiple studies have shown that the SAT and ACT are not accurate predictors for college success.

Even the College Board recognizes the flaws in their tests when they changed the test both in 2005 and 2016 to “make it as fair and as valuable as possible” according to Leslie Hawley, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. If the test has had to be readjusted because it has been proven that it does not portray a person’s intelligence, then why is it still a major factor in accepting students into colleges?

A four-hour test on a Saturday morning should not weigh into the decision process the same amount as four years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice throughout the rigorous high school lifestyle. There is no doubt that standardized testing does show some level of intelligence, but many smart students struggle to reach scores that accurately portray their intelligence because they are not naturally born test-takers. Since there has been significant data showing that going “test optional” does not harm the college, then why doesn’t every college switch to “test optional?”