Nov. 1 is approaching, a date that places immeasurable stress on any senior attending college next fall: it marks the early-action deadline.
Although many colleges are going test-optional for the class of 2021, and some are even going test blind, seniors face the difficult decision of whether or not to submit an ACT or SAT score anyway.
Test-optional schools will still consider applications without a standardized exam score, but having a high score could give applicants the upper hand.
So, despite many colleges not requiring test scores, most seniors will take one, hoping to perform well.
This raises the question, why do we put so much emphasis on these two exams? Why is getting a 33 on the ACT worth more to students than their mental health?
The answer: the testing system in America is broken and in desperate need of repair.
I’m not suggesting that we ditch standardized testing as part of the college admission process. Standardized testing is useful in one way: it gives colleges a numerical value they can use to quickly assess a student’s academic ability.
That being said, the system’s flaws outweigh its strengths. For one, it costs $46 to take the ACT without writing, $63 with writing and an additional $30 for late registration.
For families with financial struggles, that’s the cost of putting dinner on the table. Students who aren’t concerned about money could afford to take the exam multiple times to increase their scores.
Additionally, some students will take courses to learn testing strategies. Instead of simply being comfortable with the material, these students memorize the test’s format. Do their scores even represent their knowledge, or do they represent how well they played the system?
These courses cost hundreds of dollars to take, which also places low-income families at a disadvantage.
For students who can afford to take them, the content and style of the exams don’t truly test their knowledge. The short time-limits force students to rush and make mistakes on problems they would be able to answer correctly with a few more minutes.
In order for colleges to receive an accurate representation of a student’s knowledge, the exams need to change.
The time limit needs to be significantly increased so that kids have enough time to reflect on each question, and there should be different assessments that cover subject areas such as art, psychology or business. Students who are interested in these subjects shouldn’t receive a poor exam score simply because they don’t excel at math or English.
Secondly, the exam should be a free, one-time opportunity, and prep courses shouldn’t exist. This would even the playing field for low-income families.
If ACT and SAT make these changes, colleges should continue to use these exams in the admission process; however, if the exams remain as they are, colleges need to get rid of them. Colleges should be judging students fairly, and not by how much money they can spend or how well they can play the system.