Goodbye ACT & SAT? Should Colleges Be Test-Optional?

Any student at Fenwick, especially seniors, or any other school in the nation should know what test optional means when it comes to colleges and universities by now. The policy was adopted during the pandemic by schools who wanted to be fair to incoming students. The idea is that, because of the pandemic, the test scores of applicants might have suffered, due to the lack of in person learning at the time and, in response, schools offered the option for applicants to not even send their test scores in. Of course this leads to a much higher scrutiny when it comes to the students GPA. However the presence of the test optional policy has led to a debate. The topic of that debate? Should colleges be test optional?

Some would argue that the option is long overdue. Tests like the ACT and SAT are flawed. Anyone who has taken the tests would tell you that the reading portion does not test your reading comprehension, but in fact your ability to sift through large paragraphs and find answers in a matter of minutes. Anyone who has taken the ACT would know that the science portion does not test your knowledge of science but in fact your data analysis abilities. The only portions that test what is claimed to be tested are the math and english portions. So it is safe to say that the test does not necessarily gauge your knowledge of subjects taught in school let alone how good of a student you are. That is not the only problem. This does not dive into the fact that kids of a higher socioeconomic status can get tutoring for these tests that lower income kids are not able to access. The fact that some kids are simply not skilled standardized test takers is also not taken into account. For those reasons the ACT and SAT are flawed, however they are still needed. The reason being that they are the only constants in every kid’s application. Colleges get tens of thousands of applications every year from kids from many different schools. Each of those schools are different. Their grading scales can range from the 93 grading scale Fenwick uses all the way to an 85 grading scale. Not to mention how certain schools will offer more or less AP courses. There is also the fact that some schools are just harder than others. That plus some of the changes schools have made because of COVID equals grade inflation. This has led to a situation where a 4.0 student at Fenwick and a 4.5 student at another school are actually the same in some cases. The point is that there are a lot of fluctuations in difficulty between schools which can cause an incorrect comparison between one student from one school and another student from another school. This is where tests like the ACT and SAT come into play. Every student gets the same test. There is no fluctuation here. When a school sees that a 4.0 student got a 31 on the ACT and a 4.5 student got a 27 that is telling. The reason why standardized tests are essential is because they are a measuring stick from which all students are compared.

That is why colleges should not be test optional. Why get rid of the one thing that is constant in every application and allows for as even a comparison between students as you can get. Are there issues with the ACT and SAT? Definitely. But to not require them can lead to some questionable decisions acceptance wise. As time goes on we will see what colleges decide to do with the policy. With the pandemic passing, in America, and schools returning to in person learning the need for test optional may be less important. When asked about the state of test optional in college admissions interim principal Mr. O’Rourke said, “The winds of college admissions are that of a tempest without a definitive direction. We have noticed that the test optional pendulum is swinging away from voluntary standardized test submission.” In the coming years we will see how admissions change and stay the same. Maybe the test optional policy will die out but a new policy will be introduced. Or maybe colleges will revert back to mandatory standardized testing. We will just have to wait and see