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Standardized Test Scores: Are Colleges Taking the Easy Way Out?

In a few weeks we will have February break. For some, this is a time to rest. For others, this is the time to start doing college visits. College visits mean thinking about college admission; are you looking for a small liberal arts college? Or maybe a big state school?

For small liberal arts colleges, standardized test scores including the SAT are a lot less important than they are for large state schools. One specific number may be the easiest way for large colleges to determine if you are a good fit for their school, but is it really the best way to assess someone’s capabilities?  What if you were sick when you took your test? What if you were a perfectly smart student but test taking just was not for you? The admission system that colleges use should be revamped in order to focus more on someone’s skills, character, and aspirations rather than sort out the good test takers from the bad.

Anyone who has taken the SAT or plans to take it soon knows that even though the test may only be around four hours long it often requires a lot more than four hours of preparation. The murmur of “good SAT vocab words” can be heard commonly in English classrooms. Students are now spending time in school learning to take tests instead of spending that same time learning things that could be useful outside of that 4 hour period of their life. Preparing for college admissions tests does nothing else than prepare you for one test. Once you take that test, all that time you put in preparing is now no longer useful.

Test prep can come in many forms- self-study, tutoring, prep courses, and test prep books. The free online resources available for test prep are plentiful but the ones that can be purchased always surpass the free, otherwise no one would buy them. Additionally, the SAT and ACT can be taken as many times as you want, but if you plan on taking it multiple times it can become quite costly. Just one SAT costs $52.50. A 30 hour Princeton Review Test Prep course costs around $1,000 and tutors can be just as expensive if not more. This puts those who have a lower income at a huge disadvantage. Just because one person has more money, does not mean that they should have a better shot at getting into college.

Fortunately a lot of schools nowadays have recognized these issues and are becoming test optional. According to Fairtest, more than 800 four year colleges are now test optional.  Although this is a step in the right direction, it does not change the fact that those with a higher score have a greater likelihood getting into the college of their choice. In my opinion, in order for the system of college applications and admissions to be more equitable, colleges should stop allowing the submission of SATs and other standardized tests. Yes, this might make the applications process a lot slower and more costly for the colleges, but in the end it will be a lot more fair and improve the matches between colleges and students.

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