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SAT Testing: Biased or Based

by Ryan Wang

Standardized testing has recently become a major sticking point in the call to revamp the US college admissions process. Ever since the number of SATs administered in 2018 peaked at over 2 million, it has experienced a sharp decline, sliding to 1.5 million in 2021. While a major reason for this decline is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, over 1,200 US colleges have stopped requiring applicants to provide standardized testing scores. While critics argue that standardized testing is a bad indicator of college success and disproportionately favor the privileged while discriminating against minorities, proponents will say that standardized testing is an important indicator of college success and, contrary to discriminating against low-income and minority student, helps colleges seek out talented individuals within those communities. Which side is correct? That has become an increasingly important question as America’s ongoing cultural wars rage on, opening a battleground in the field of academia.  

History of Standardized Testing

The SAT was created in 1923 by Carl C. Brigham, who worked as an army recruiter. He found his inspiration in Army IQ tests widely used during World War I recruiting. In 1926, the first SAT was first administered to the first-year class at Princeton and was later rolled out to all high school students. Then, in 1933, came a breakthrough for the use of SAT in higher education. James Conant, then-president of Harvard, announces that Harvard will be using the SAT as an indicator of who to give scholarships to. Soon following the announcement, other Ivy League schools start to require applicants to take the SAT. Just a decade later in 1943, SAT (then known as the Army-Navy College Qualifying Test) would be administered to over 300,000 high school students across the nation. Ironically, at the time it was pitched as a “test that believes in equality of opportunity, not equality of rewards.” 

Why should we abolish the SAT?

Key arguments that support abolishing standardized testing can be boiled down to 2 main points:  

  • Bolsters diversity without sacrificing the quality of applicants: The first main point argues that the current system is inherently discriminatory towards traditionally marginalized groups like poor people of color, and more specifically, poor women of color. They argue that the SAT is a better predictor of demographic characteristics than it is of academic aptitude. This argument is mainly based upon the bevy of online prep courses by the likes of Princeton Review and Kaplan that allow the rich to use their wealth to prepare targeted questions on the test.  
  • GPA is a better indicator of college success: The second main point argues the SAT is a null indicator of college success, citing studies that show no, or even negative correlation between test scores and college success. The logic behind goes something along these lines: Since the SAT is a one-time test, it is crammable and results are only a partial indicator of academic success. Meanwhile, GPA lasts a whole 4 years, showing not only academic achievement but also the consistency of those accomplishments. (In my opinion, modern teenagers already have enough to deal without the compounded stress of taking a test that has so much weight on your future) 

Ultimately, the SAT is thought of as pointless, or even worse, hurtful to minority groups, a key argument that understandable would garner a lot of attention and outrage.  

Why should we keep the SAT?

On the other side of the aisle, fierce objectors of abolishing standardized testing stand by the claim the SAT can accurately measure academic aptitude while providing counterarguments to the two main points argued by non-believers in standardized testing. 

  • Standardized testing would actually benefit high-achieving minority students: SAT and ACT scores can be used to match scholarships with potential applicants, increasing opportunities for students from low-income backgrounds to make it to college. Moreover, they argue that standardized tests have come such a long way from when they were created back in the 1930s. The SAT has evolved from a pure IQ test into an aptitude test, which can roughly measure the level of academic achievement of its takers. Of course, while they admit that such tests are and cannot be perfect, it is simply the best tool available to us right now. The tests were not meant to be all-encompassing, that is why we have other means of evaluation such as essays and extracurriculars. 
  • Furthermore, there is the argument that abolishing SATs would send a wrong message to students and American culture as a whole. If standardized testing would become completely optional, students might not take academics as seriously as before. In a globalized world where countries like China are starting to catch up to America’s innovative tech and ideas, it is more critical than ever to make sure that Americans are well-educated. Abolishing standardized tests would lead to a heavy fall in academic performance, especially in the STEM fields, where America is currently losing the most footing on a global stage.  

Here, the SAT is being argued as a useful tool to measure academic achievement. It’s not perfect, but that’s why colleges don’t take standardized testing scores as the sole criteria of admission.  

There is an argument to be made on both sides. There are pros and cons to both eliminating and keeping standardized testing. While keeping standardized tests seem logical and are the status quo, what are the effects of this action on minorities (not to mention even middle and upper-class teenagers, who have so much on their plate already)? Is keeping the SAT necessary to maintain the US’s status as one of the most developed countries in the world? In such decisions where the outcome might decide the future of our nation, it is important to consider and weigh all arguments carefully. Currently, we are trending towards the direction of abolishment, with more than half of all US colleges making standardized test scores optional. Is this a step in the right direction or a dubious blunder that could cost the US some severe damage on the global stage? Only the future holds the answer. 

Sources and Image Credits

https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/views/2021/08/02/keep-sat-and-act-opinion

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/abolish-standardized-testing-for-college-admissions_n_5b045869e4b003dc7e470ee3

tinyurl.com/26sjzsub

http://christineeyoo.blogspot.com/2012/01/valley-christian-high-school-real.html
https://quizly.co/can-you-pass-us-army-iq-test-1920/
https://www.amren.com/news/2017/02/race-gaps-sat-scores-highlight-inequality-hinder-upward-mobility/
 

 

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1 comment

Jamie Stevens March 5, 2022 - 9:36 pm

Great article! 😀

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