It’s time to de-emphasize the standardized test scores


Three dreaded letters: SAT. But these three letters can make or break a student's future.

Shawna Sawall, Journalism 1 Writer

A few weeks ago, my school counselor came into my class in order to provide my fellow classmates and I with information about the SAT, as well as how we should go about preparing for it. You’re probably assuming I sat there and listened attentively to the important information being told but,  in reality- I slid down in my chair and zoned out instantly. It’s not that I’m uninterested in going to college, I’m uninterested in what I have to do to get there.

One of the key components to getting into a good college is getting a good score on either the SAT or ACT. The goal is to score as high as you can, and these tests are over subjects like math, English, history, science, and the English language. To put it in simple terms, these standardized tests are supposed to determine how intelligent and academically prepared for college you are.

Intelligence can’t be measured in general and especially not by standardized tests. Each individual is smart in different ways and in varying subjects. People that are good at math can also be terrible at English and vice versa. Education researcher Gerald W. Bracey, PhD, notes that tests like the SAT cannot measure “creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, sense of beauty, sense of wonder, honesty, integrity,” all of which are incredibly important predictors of a student’s success in college.

Also, many students have test anxiety to the point where the testing is neither healthy nor valid.  According to the American Test Anxieties Association, 20% of students have high test anxiety and another 18% have moderately-high test anxiety. It’s unfair to give standardized tests like these when nearly half of the people taking it are in a state of mind in which it’s difficult to concentrate and give their best effort. So much pressure is placed on doing well on these tests that even the calmest test takers often feel nervous and uneasy.

Some colleges recognize this and have even started to de-emphasize test scores as part of applications resulting in new initiatives like the test-optional policy. This policy means that it’s completely up to you whether your test results are an accurate representation of your potential and overall ability. If you believe they are, you send them in and if not- you don’t have to. Some of the top colleges who have eliminated their test scores requirements are Bates College, Bowdoin College, Bryn Mawr College, George Washington University, Sarah Lawrence College, University of Chicago, University of Iowa, Wake Forest University, and Wesleyan University.


Advocates of standardized testing point to the fact that students can take the tests as many times as they want in order to get a higher score, so if someone is willing to work hard, the test isn’t a hurdle to future success. Sounds simple right? The reality is that these tests take 3-4 hours to complete and cost money each time you take it. For example, taking the SAT costs $64 and it’s common for students to spend at least $100 overall due to the other fees and services associated with the exam. The ACT costs $46.00 (no writing) or $62.50 (with optional writing test) and can have a late-registration fee of $30 if students miss the registration deadline, in addition to other costs and fees.

Performing poorly on these standardized tests negatively impacts students because it plants the seed in their minds that they aren’t “good students,” which then leads to them questioning their own intelligence and even their value as a member of the school learning community. Students should not have to take the SAT or ACT because it does more harm than good by causing unneeded stress and frightening people. Schools are supposed to be safe places that value all different kinds of students, and mandatory standardized testing is completely opposed to that idea.