The lingering threat of COVID-19 has halted the traditional process of college applications. With the cancellations of standardized tests and the closure of testing facilities, over 50% of universities in the United States have made the ACT and SAT optional for the 2020-21 admission cycle. 

While the majority of universities are only suspending test requirements for one year, some institutions, like the University of California system, are suspending them indefinitely. The UC schools announced that they are committed to “developing a new test that more closely aligns with what we expect incoming students to know to demonstrate their preparedness for UC.” 

Standardized testing has always been an unequal and inadequate way of gauging college readiness.

The suspension of ACT and SAT requirements has brought an air of relief for high school students, especially those without the means or access to study materials, prep classes, or tutors. The temporary halt in testing will hopefully allow for a more diverse range of students to apply and be admitted into different colleges. 

Standardized testing has always been an unequal and inadequate way of gauging college readiness.

In the United States, a disproportionate share of low-income families — generally without access to the best public schools — are Black or Latinx. These patterns have been cited by the growing number of colleges that have dropped requirements that all applicants submit SAT or ACT scores. Recent studies have proven that that on average, wealthier students perform better than poor ones; Asian and white high schoolers receive higher scores than Black or Latinx high schoolers; boys do better than girls.

The College Board, the SAT parent company, recently sought out to introduce an “adversity score,” a number that would include factors such as a student’s socioeconomic status, the neighborhood they lived in, the ranking of their high school, and their family income. The adversity score was scrapped in 2019 due to pushback that a student’s struggle with specific inequities could not be simplified into a number.

On top of that, College Board has been criticized for the subject material of the questions they include on tests. For example, one year included this question:

A runner is to a marathon as a _____ is to a _______.

A) envoy: embassy
B) martyr: massacre
C) oarsman: regatta
D) referee: tournament
E) horse: stable

The answer is C, but there’s a chance that only wealthy and privileged test-takers would have familiarity with regattas, thus giving them a biased advantage when answering this question.

Others discovered that the SAT math section had questions depicting high schoolers in a hypothetical math class, in which the correct answer pointed to a higher percentage of boys attending said-class.

A question on the verbal section asked students to analyze a reading on the importance of the domesticity of women. These are both questions that could reduce morale for female test-takers.

Colleges need to create equitable and diverse measures that more accurately assess a potential student’s ability to succeed at their institution.

ACT, Inc. and the College Board are the two private companies that hold a monopoly on standardized testing in the United States. ACT, Inc. had a yearly revenue of $353 million, according to their last tax return. The College Board had a yearly revenue of $1.4 billion.

Both the ACT and SAT cost around $60 a test.

The companies that dictate college admissions are biased corporations that don’t hold the interest of students and test-takers in mind. They cater to the privileged who can afford to purchase their study guides and have the time and money to repeat tests.

By requiring standardized testings, universities are inherently accepting more affluent students.

By requiring standardized testings, universities are inherently accepting more affluent students. Now, more than 1,000 schools, including elite liberal arts colleges as well as research universities and for-profit schools, are test-optional, according to the nonprofit group FairTest, which argues standardized tests are biased against minority groups.

Yet there are still colleges that have not yet caught up with the times.

Colleges need to re-evaluate their admissions cycles and should individually create equitable and diverse measures that more accurately assess a potential student’s ability to succeed at their institution.

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https://thetempest.co/?p=146523
Claire Cheek

By Claire Cheek

Editorial Fellow