Standardized test evaluates students unfairly
It’s amazing how one acronym can strike fear in the hearts of an entire population of students. It is that acronym that every high schooler dreads to hear upon entering junior year: SAT.
I remember how my fellow classmates and I handled the approaching deadline of the SAT. Junior year weekends were spent in cram schools, which trained us to memorize vocabulary words. In high school, the general belief was that the higher our scores, the more opportunities we can access. While our scores may not have guaranteed admittance into the top schools listed in U.S. News and Report, higher SAT scores increase our chances.
However, as reported by WCVB, about 30 Massachusetts schools have dropped the SAT as a requirement to admission. According to Monty Neill, executive director of Boston-based organization Fairtest, the reason for this is that colleges “find out when they go test-optional, they get a more diverse student body but do not suffer any diminishing performance or graduation rates.” Why can’t Wellesley do the same?
There is much reason to remove the SAT requirement. The test doesn’t gauge a student’s true academic abilities. The notion of the SAT as an indicator of success is false. The rote memorization approach the test encourages destroys the real skills necessary to be able to be successful. When colleges eliminate the SAT requirement, high school students can focus on honing the skills needed for careers and success.
Parents hope their children can obtain the highest possible score and increase their chances of being admitted to top institutions. I dreaded attending cram schools such as the Princeton Review. All those SAT Boot Camp courses took up approximately a day out of the two days I had to relax during the weekend amid high school stress and coursework. In addition, cram schools are expensive. Parents who want their kids to receive a top notch American college education spend an average of $3,667 annually just to help their children obtain a higher SAT score.
This emphasis on high SAT scores and performing well on academic tests in general are dominant features of many Asian cultures. Though my high school was an international school, the majority of the student body was of Asian or Asian-American descent. Competition was high in both academics and extracurricular activities. The main reason for this competitive attitude was the overarching belief that you are defined by your test score. Whatever score you obtain, whether on an assessment or a problem set, defines your worth.
As a retired fighter from the academic war grounds of Taipei American School, I hated the “you are your number” belief. Though teachers have continually stressed the opposite, that belief still remains today. I’m not saying that I hated my school, since I loved the teachers and the students’ personalities. But it was then that I asked myself whether the SAT was truly a fair test that measures someone’s worth. How do you even measure what someone was capable of in the future?
The SAT, according to The College Board, is “designed to assess your academic readiness for college [and] provide a path to opportunities, financial support, and scholarships, in a way that’s fair to all students.” The word that immediately jumps out is “fair.” Opponents of the SAT have pointed out that the SAT actually reflects how much time and resources students have rather than their true abilities.
This is undeniably true. The SAT requires an individual to commit to continuous practice for the best possible score. The only resources to these practice tests are offered by the testing companies themselves, such as The Princeton Review, Kaplan and McGraw Hill. Test prep books cost around $22. In order to ace the exam, students of lower financial background are already at a disadvantage in their pursuit to gain higher-level education. In addition, in order to be able to get as much practice done, students need to commit a large amount of time to complete practice tests. Students who have to work or are expected to contribute to household upkeep will have less time to dedicate to SAT prep. The time and money required to ace the exam is showing that a score does not indicate intelligence or capability.
The SAT is also mentally demanding. After all, the SAT is a factor that could make or break your college education. I remember how the SAT was the most stressful part of applying to college.
Wellesley should follow the footsteps of its fellow Massachusetts schools and drop the SAT requirement. The SAT is merely an obstacle to those with financial need and serves to hinder motivation. Moreover so, the score is only a number. As my high school teachers and professors here at Wellesley have continuously stressed, “You are not your number.” And they’re right. A number does not define someone or who they are. It may be a factor in determining your reputation in some high schools; however, that number becomes irrelevant when you enter college and the real world. Though most admission processes are holistic, the main factor should be creativity. It is one of the main reasons why there is so much pressure in high school that often leads to destroying confidence and self-esteem. The SAT only reflects someone in terms of how good of a student he or she is, not in terms of the potential and creativity needed to really succeed in this world.