It’s that time of the year. Senior high school students are finalizing their journey at their current institution and are preparing to move on to the next stage of their life, college. High school seniors, me being one of them, have spent countless hours and lots of money on things like application fees, transcripts, and especially standardized test scores. If you ask most seniors, the most stressful part of applying for college is the standardized testing. Many students think that the ACT and SAT are the only thing that defines them as an individual; the score that will set them over the top and make them worthy of acceptance. But in recent years, students, and more shockingly parents of students, have been caught cheating on exams to boost their scores to get them into more competitive schools. So with anxiety and cheating levels on the rise for highschool students, why do colleges still look at standardized test scores? 

The true purpose of the ACT and SAT, as said by the College Board, is to level the playing field for students that come from diverse backgrounds. Grades have been on the rise in the last couple of years, so the goal of standardized testing is to truly measure a student’s mastery of the course material that they retained from highschool. On the flip side, lots of students, parents, and even college admission boards believe that standardized testing shows bias and are over used when weighing your admission to a university. Students can take the test as many times as they would like. Seems perfectly fine right? Wrong. Each test costs anywhere between 45-60 dollars alone without a registration fee. Students that don’t have the financial ability to take the test 5 and 6 times are left with little to no wiggle room for improvement. Many wealthy families on top of paying for the test will hire a tutor, people guaranteed to make their scores go higher if you pay a lot of extra cash. Unless you are a super genius or wealthy, the standardized testing system is stacked against you. 

In the last couple of years, standardized testing scandals have emerged from under our noses. Rich families have been found cheating their children into incredible scores thanks to Operation Varsity Blues. According to the NY Times, Operation Varsity Blues was an undercover investigation that led to the charging of 50 cheating cases on standardized tests. Cheating may not seem that easy, but if you have the money and the power, it’s a lot easier to get that perfect score. Many students will hire other classmates to take the exam for them, a more risky form of cheating. To fix the issue of getting caught, parents will help students create fake IDs to give to their false child on test day. Parents will also bribe the proctors on test days to give their kid more time. I think the worst way of cheating by parents and students, is to claim a false disability to allow for more time in a more private setting. This ruins taking the test for people with actual disorders like anxiety or a learning disability because it leads to discrimination against students with disabilites. 

Many schools have tried to combat this inequality by making their institutions “Test Optional” to make the students themselves shine rather than a test score. But schools and standardized test companies are still a long ways away from preventing these cheating scandals and bridging the gap of inequality.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Why Do Colleges Still Look At Standardized Testing Scores? by Hannah is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

3 Comments
  1. Italia 4 weeks ago

    Hannah, this is such an important topic in our day and age. As you said before, as seniors, we’re starting to see all the true costs and sacrifices that we have to make. “Unless you are a super genius or wealthy, the standardized testing system is stacked against you,” made me realize that the system truly only favors the academically genius and the wealthy. Although those who qualify for fee waivers are given opportunities to take the test, it’s still difficult in the process of preparing for the actual test. Tutors cost around $50 an hour and when preparing for such an extensive and important test, it is necessary to partake in multiple, hour-long courses a week. For many though, this may add up to be as much as how much half of rent for the month is or the groceries for the week. This article might give you more information on the topic: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar99/vol56/num06/Why-Standardized-Tests-Don%27t-Measure-Educational-Quality.aspx . As a society, I think we have to think of a way to measure a students academic growth without the extra loads of stress and financial sacrifices made to continue our education in order to better the world around us by exponential factors.

  2. Ian 4 weeks ago

    We’ve also been discussing this topic in my AP Calc BC class. Many of my friends who take 4 or more AP exams a year lament the exorbitant cost of the tests, with their only merits being a higher possibility to get into a good college or obtain credit. Personally, I try to take AP classes based on the subjects I’m interested in, not just to improve my application. I think that recent developments such as the superscoring of SAT scores, looking at test attempts by section rather than the whole package, show that colleges’ attitudes are changing to be more beneficial to the student rather than the corporation.

  3. Natalie Risse 1 month ago

    This might be an interesting source to check out 🙂 https://purpletod.co.za/docs/Standardized%20Testing.pdf

    I liked learning more about the topic of standardized testing more just because I’m currently applying to college. I actually ranted about the cost of applying to college on social media the other day because I was so fed up. “Students that don’t have the financial ability to take the test 5 and 6 times are left with little to no wiggle room for improvement,” It is definitely important to realize these factors of socioeconomics. Maybe add some more facts as this piece progress to support your argument better. Specificity is also important when providing this supporting evidence. It’s a great job and essay 🙂

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