Back in 1985, a group of educators founded fairtest.org, an organization dedicated to the idea that standardized tests like the SAT and ACT should no longer be used to evaluate college applicants. In the years since, the “test optional” movement has picked up speed. On the fairtest.org website today, you can find a list of more than 1,000 colleges and universities that do not require either the SAT or the ACT.
Is the “test optional” movement gaining speed? It could be. Just last summer, the prestigious University of Chicago decided to make tests optional for applicants.
In years past, let’s face it, a number of “test optional” colleges were accused of dropping testing requirements because they wanted to attract more students or even less-qualified students.
Why Won’t Standardized Tests like the SAT and ACT Die?
There is no doubt that a lot is wrong with standardized tests. Students who are “bad test-takers” believe the tests are unfair, and with good reason. The tests also present challenges for students with dyslexia, even when they receive special accommodations like extended time and frequent breaks. And the tests are unfair because the students who perform best on them have generally attended better high schools in more affluent areas.
Okay, all that is wrong with standardized tests. (Things are also wrong with many other aspects of the college admissions process, but we won’t explore them in this post.) But standardized tests, despite their flaws and shortcomings, are not about to disappear soon. Here are some of the reasons why . . .
- Students who expect to do very well on the SAT and the ACT are going to continue to take them, no matter what colleges require. Those students reason, correctly, that if they can achieve top scores on tests . . . well, why not take them, even if they are not required?
- Standardized test scores are still used by colleges and other entities to evaluate students who will receive scholarships. When you consider that the PSAT is as a screening tool by the National Merit Scholarship Program, you see one notable instance where test-taking and financial aid are hardwired together. More than 1,600,000 American students are taking part in the program this year, which gives some indication why the PSAT is not about to go away.
- Standardized test scores are still used by US News when it ranks colleges. US News is not completely forthcoming with information about how it uses SAT scores as it creates its rankings of American colleges. In earlier years, the SAT scores of incoming students were used by US News as it compiled its rankings; the assumption was that colleges that attracted the best test-takers were also the strongest colleges. Today, the editors have a more difficult time using SAT and ACT scores to evaluate American colleges, simply because some colleges no longer require the tests. But elite colleges, where incoming students are likely to achieve top test scores, will probably not stop requiring the tests, which boost their rankings in US News and other evaluators. And we know that things that improve college rankings tend to survive.
So, Should Your Student Still Take the SAT and ACT Standardized Tests?
Chances are you already know the answer to that question. If a student has a record of doing well on standardized tests, why not take one of them, maybe even both? If he or she will apply for a Merit Scholarship, again the answer is yes.
Yet thanks to the efforts of programs like fairtest.org, students now have the option to opt out of taking either the SAT or ACT. For some students, that choice can free up new possibilities in college admissions.
We Invite You to Explore All Your Career and College Options . . .
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