Most students can relate to the act of carelessly flipping through SAT, ACT, or GRE flashcards, wondering why anyone would need to know such ridiculous definitions. Who uses words like ‘pettifogger’ and ‘jejune,’ anyway? And what is the academic value in being able to speed through an exam under a time crunch? Is this really our best measure of academic capability? More competitive college admissions teams may even start off a review process by separating student applications like peanuts and M&Ms based on a cut-off score. With this logic, bright applicants slip through the cracks while low-achieving students may advance with lucky scores (or numbers that reflect their parent’s bank accounts).
Students from low-income families are at a disadvantage
The resources are endless for standardized testing: private tutors, study books, flashcards, and recorded lectures. But hey…you’re guaranteed a high score or money back. The common theme? A steep price.
Those of low socioeconomic status are at a disadvantage in application pools. Without a surplus of money, students cannot pay for the tools to get high scores. Research even shows that students from wealthy families consistently score higher on tests like the SAT and ACT. A Kaplan MCAT package could cost as much as $3,700 for 10 hours of tutoring. Even if you just buy the books, you should plan on spending hundreds of dollars. The takeaway is simple: if you have the money and are willing to pay, then you could be looking at a score that will get you into your dream school.
Standardized testing is trying on mental health
It’s no secret that the cutthroat nature of college admissions is mentally trying. On top of maintaining a competitive GPA, students are faced with the pressure of polishing their test score. It’s no wonder testing anxiety has become increasingly prevalent when the futures of many depend on exams. It is estimated that 18 percent of students have moderate to high testing anxiety. This may manifest as self-doubt and fear in some students, and as dizziness and shortness of breath in others. No matter the form, testing performance may be impacted significantly due to the symptoms, regardless of ample preparation.
But why should this discrepancy serve as a hindrance? There are plenty of more relevant ways for students to shine on applications that are consistently overshadowed by scores. After all, it was Einstein who said “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Schools are getting rid of standardized testing requirements
Many schools are beginning to catch on to the trivial nature of standardized test scores. California state universities no longer require the ACT or SAT for undergraduate admission. Even some East Coast schools are doing away with test scores. The University of Rhode Island, for example, explicitly criticizes the GRE for putting students of color, women, and lower socioeconomic status at a disadvantage. Countless graduate schools are even waiving tests like the GMAT and GRE for 2021 applications to COVID restrictions, welcoming a much more diverse application pool.
Perhaps this pattern of modified requirements should serve as a precursor to future application cycles, paving the way to a more holistic college admissions system in the United States.