I am an example of a student who went the test-optional route when applying to college, and this opened a lot of doors for me.
No matter how hard I worked, I was never a good test taker. However, on other types of assignments, such as essays, I performed better. When it came time to apply for college, I only applied to schools that did not require the SAT or ACT. Now, I am at Trinity College in Hartford and achieving my lifelong dream of preparing to be a teacher. The test-optional route allowed me to be where I am today. Therefore, I believe all colleges and universities should offer test-optional admissions.
There are several reasons why it is more inclusive for colleges to have test-optional admissions. First, research shows that standardized tests do not accurately measure one’s intelligence. Second, test registration and preparation are expensive and therefore advantage wealthy students. Finally, research shows that there are ways, other than testing, for students to demonstrate what they know.
While standardized tests are widely used to assess student intelligence, they may not adequately assess student potential. Instead, research shows that there are racial disparities in SAT scores, suggesting that the test disadvantages Black and Latinx students. A complaint against the University of California claims the use of testing is inequitable, given the way that the test appears to advantage Asian American and white students. Statistics from the College Board, which administers the SAT, show that 55 percent of Asian-American test-takers and 45 percent of white test-takers scored a 1,200 or higher on the SAT in 2019. For Hispanic and black students, those numbers were 12 percent and 9 percent.
The patterns in the data illustrate that Hispanic and Black students have a disadvantage and mistakenly suggest that other groups who have the upper hand are more “intelligent” when in reality we are all equal. The scores are a reflection of whether we have the resources or opportunities to understand how to get a high score on the SAT and ACTs. They measure the use of testing strategies that we have to learn; the only way to do so is to get expensive training which not everybody has the opportunity and means to do.
Wealthy or privileged students’ high schools are more likely to provide SAT and ACT preparation. These students are also more likely to afford top-notch test preparation, where they learn, for example, that the Reading and Science sections of the SAT and ACT are all about the strategies. For example, when I took an SAT prep class, I was taught to merely scan the first sentence and the last sentence of the section I had read, and that understanding the reading was not important. Preparation and expert advice are essential for doing well on the SAT. However, such preparation is only accessible to wealthy students. Online courses cost $100-$2800, while private sessions cost $1,600-$8,000.
Finally, students have varying strengths. Everyone on earth is unique, just as everyone has unique talents. For some, it’s music, sports, or theater. The standardized exam results are simply a snapshot of their knowledge. Research shows that GPA or any grades done in school are a better predictor of college success than standardized tests. GPAs are a collection of “effort over a long period of time, in different types of classes, demanding different types of academic skills and expectations.” Beyond that, teachers that have known students for years have a better understanding of the student’s potential and what they have going on in their life. Therefore, instead of relying on the standardized test, colleges should base their admissions decisions on students’ GPAs and recommendations from their teachers.
Getting institutions to adopt test-optional policies helps many students. We all deserve a chance at college. I’ve known I wanted to teach since I was five years old. It was test-optional admissions policies that allowed me to pursue that passion.
Sonia Lau is a sophomore at Trinity College from Hong Kong, majoring in Educational Studies with a possible focus on Special Education and Psychology.