Breaking News
The Student News Site of Northwood High School

The Northwood Howler

The Student News Site of Northwood High School

The Northwood Howler

The Student News Site of Northwood High School

The Northwood Howler

Standardized tests are the best baseline

Aya Takase-Songui
SIMPLE STUDYING: Students now feel compelled to take the SAT with the recent changes.

The SAT and ACT have for so long been looked at with deep skepticism. Rather than a measure of college readiness, it has been widely considered to be a tool for reinforcing socioeconomic inequalities that have barred students from attaining higher education. However, though standardized tests are in many cases a reflection of racial and economic privilege, the impact that privilege has on extracurriculars, college essays and letters of recommendation is far worse. Rather than continuing the test-blind policy that many universities have implemented since the pandemic, universities need to bring back standardized tests as a factor in deciding admissions decisions.

In recent months, universities like Yale, Dartmouth and UT Austin have reinstated standardized test scores in admissions. This unexpected decision was influenced by a new study showing that SAT and ACT scores are highly indicative of a student’s academic success and can benefit marginalized students. The study from Opportunity Insigns, a group of Harvard economists, found that despite different socioeconomic backgrounds among students, comparative SAT scores among students received similar grades in college. Therefore, despite varying GPAs, extracurriculars and economic backgrounds, standardized test scores best predict college readiness.

Yes, the SAT does indeed reflect long-standing racial and economic inequalities, but getting rid of these standardized tests is far worse. Standardized tests provide a level playing field in assessing academic proficiency as they focus on core academic skills such as reading comprehension, math, and writing: skills that the education system is supposed to teach us. With grade inflation creating more straight-A students, college admissions officers have turned to more subjective factors, such as extracurriculars and letters of recommendation, making it easier for the wealthier to game the system.

With extracurriculars, it was reported that private school students and those from wealthier backgrounds listed more extracurriculars than their less affluent counterparts. The ability to intern at your parent’s law firm, participate in unique sports activities like squash or fencing or pay for elite and expensive summer programs are just some of the ways that wealthier students have an advantage in the test-blind or optional admissions process.

In this more holistic admissions process, there is also a larger emphasis on quality essays, an aspect of the admissions process that the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis reported holds a stronger correlation to family income than the SAT. In recent years, wealthier applicants have paid thousands of dollars to college admissions counselors for help on their essays, including paying for brainstorming ideas, rigorous editing and polishing up their final essay, thus giving their writing “better” qualities. 

These qualitative aspects of the admission process, which are already subject to reader bias, make it all the more difficult for those not financially well off to have a chance at an elite college education, exacerbating socioeconomic disparities. Therefore, standardized tests offer the best quantitative baseline to measure a student’s academic ability because they are what the name suggests: standardized. This uniformity reduces the influence of external factors, such as wealth or privilege, on test performance. 

Though more affluent students may have access to more test preparation resources, such as prep courses or private tutoring, the impact of these resources on the actual test scores is very minimal, only increasing the score by “a little bit,” or about 10-20 SAT points according to research conducted by Derek Briggs of the University of Colorado Boulder and Ben Domingue of Stanford University.

While it’s important to acknowledge the limitations and criticisms of standardized tests, they still offer significant advantages over softer factors in college admissions. With the standardized benchmark for comparison created by the SAT or ACT, standardized tests can help mitigate disparities. Therefore, rather than abandoning standardized tests altogether, more universities should consider reintroducing these tests as part of the admissions process.

Leave a Comment
About the Contributors
Rhea Gupta
Rhea Gupta, Viewpoint Editor
Rhea Gupta is the Viewpoint Editor of The Howler with an extreme obsession with coffee, not for the caffeine but for the taste. If she isn't spending her time taking a nap for over 2 hours, you can find her chefing it up in the kitchen (with the select few meals she can make), dedicating her time to OC SASA or eating vanilla sponge cake (which she definitely did not make herself).
Aya Takase-Songui
Aya Takase-Songui, Photo Editor
Aya Takase is the Photo Editor for The Howler, who claims to like horror films but as of now has only watched 3. Despite coming from a long line of professional gardeners, she lacks a green thumb and has killed every household plant she touches.

Comments (0)

All The Northwood Howler Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *