Standardized tests: testing our patience


The Metric

A room full of students taking a standardized test

Lily Glowzinski, Staff Writer

Testing season is approaching at an alarmingly fast rate, causing an abundance of stress among many high school juniors, and even underclassmen as they prepare for the upcoming assessments. The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) is a form of standardized testing that is often used globally in the college admissions process. Similarly, the ACT (American College Testing) is another common, yet less popular, standardized test used by colleges and universities. In recent years, society has placed an increased amount of stress on students of all ages to achieve top scores on one of these standardized tests. This has led many to question whether or not these tests are worth it or necessary in the long run. While standardized testing can provide data on the overall education of some students, for many, they are not a reliable method to testing overall academic success and should therefore be abolished in upcoming years.

One of the main factors leading to a decreased credibility of standardized testing is the racial, classist, and sexist bias they force upon students. According to a 2018 study done by Stanford University, girls tend to underperform in comparison to boys on multiple-choice standardized tests. Furthermore, girls tend to do better than boys on open-ended questions (Stanford Graduate School). In this way, standardized tests are not a reliable source of data for both genders. Additionally, there is a significant correlation between income and standardized test scores. Higher income students have better access to resources and test-prep that would give them a significant advantage in standardized testing. Students should not be rewarded or punished for something outside of their control.

The biggest factor as to why standardized testing should be abolished in schools is that they do not provide an accurate representation of a student’s academic success or performance. A Brookings Institution study found that “50-80% of year-over-year test score improvements were temporary,” (Sandbox News). This shows that students may excel in memorizing information for a test but are not actually demonstrating overall academic growth. Additionally, the majority of standardized tests are timed and taken on a set day in a room often with a large number of other students. These standardized tests don’t take into account external factors or distractions, such as stress or distractions from other students. They also don’t consider students who struggle under  pressure, like students with test anxiety, which according to the American Test Anxieties Association, is estimated to be between 16-20%  of students (NCBI). If standardized testing isn’t statistically accurate for a large sum of the student population, then what is the overall purpose of using them?

According to the American College Testing organization, “Standardized testing provides critical data on underserved groups that help identify achievement gaps, target areas for growth and increase college readiness.” If standardized tests provided accurate information for a majority of students, then this would make sense; however, because these tests do not account for a variety of factors that might affect students’ overall performances, it does not make sense to use standardized test scores in life-altering situations, such as college acceptances. The introduction of COVID-19 has also had a large impact on reliance on standardized test scores in regard to college admissions. If these test scores were as “critical” as the ACT claims, then why have many universities chosen to drop the SAT or ACT requirements? Originally, this “test-optional” policy of many colleges and universities was started to give a “leg up” to those affected by the pandemic.

As of 2022, two years after COVID-19 started, 76% of institutions offering a bachelor’s degree were still test-optional (Fairtest). This reduction in usage of standardized test scores by colleges and universities shows that there are other, more accurate means to assess a student’s ability to succeed at an institution of higher learning. A variety of factors can be used in place of test scores, such as GPA, academic awards or extracurriculars.

Overall, standardized test scores are not a necessary factor in judging students’ academic performance. Through the increase of test-optional colleges and universities, and the lack of accuracy they provide for a large number of students, standardized tests really aren’t necessary for measuring students’ success. A word of advice to students spending 24 hours a day trying to achieve that perfect score of 1600 on the SAT–take a break.