Standardized Test For Colleges and Universities Admissions

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Colleges and universities all over the US use standardized tests as their primary requirement for student admissions, a test that supposedly can indicate a student’s success for their first year of college (Fairtest, 2007). But these test are not only inaccurate in their predictions, but they’re also biased, giving unfair advantages to certain races, classes, and gender, along with being misused in the admissions system. The tests can also deny people education or scholarships, based on being a single point too low. College admissions should be based off your knowledge and what you’ve learned throughout high school, not how well you can do on a multiple-choice test.

To begin with, a test should “be well aligned to what it’s trying to measure—in this case, the knowledge and skills in state standards—in order to produce valid results.” (Gewertz, 2018). The ACT and the SAT wants to produce results that can predict the success of a students’ first year in college. However, studies have found that a grade point average from high school can more accurately predict first-year grades than the ACT or the SAT can (Cooper, 2018). This means that a student that is good at taking tests and has their share of luck on the test day, might be accepted to a college they’re not ready for yet. The same way a diligent student throughout high school, with high test nerves and bad luck, can miss their opportunity at a college or university, or not get the scholarships they deserve or need to be able to pursue a higher education.

The standardized tests lets you retake it as many times as you want to, or can pay for. By doing so, a lot of people get a higher score without actually knowing more or being more prepared for college. Most people score better when they retest, which can give inaccurate scores. Because of the multiple-choice set-up of the test, there are huge margins of error that adds to the inaccuracy of the test. When luck comes into play, the results of the tests are weakened. Therefore, the test does not accurately predict what it wants to, and therefore should not be used as a requirement for higher education.

We can also see how the test gives unfair advantages to white, rich, male test-takers (Fairtest, 2007). In a diverse and multicultural country like the United States, a test as important and decisive as the ACT or SAT should give equal opportunities to people across cultures, races and genders. We can see a direct link between family income and a student’s score, richer families score higher than poor families. For a lot of poorer families, sending their kids off to college might be their only hope of getting out of poverty. They might be dependent on scholarships to be able to go to at all, because college is already so expensive, especially for low-income families. For people outside of the biased groups, these tests could take away that opportunity for so many people. Solely because they come from a low-income family who’s not familiar with the test or have the means to pay for tutoring, extra course work and coaching guides.

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However, even “when all factors are equal, such as course work, grades and family income” (Fairtest, 2007), race is still playing its role. White test-takers systematically score higher than any other group. A lot of this comes from using a lot of terms that might be unfamiliar to a lot of test-takers. Not knowing idiomatic terms such as “till the cows come home” or “pulling your leg” doesn’t necessarily make you less prepared for higher education. Asian-Americans take more academic courses than any other group and should by logic score higher, but they don’t. The bias towards white test-takers is hard to ignore.

The tests are also described as a “fast-paced, multiple-choice format [that] favors males over females” (Fairtest, 2007). This is because females usually tend to have a thinking style that offers more shades of meaning than the risk-taking guessing is in the multiple-choice style that is typically preferred by males. The style of the tests doesn’t allow for the female style of thinking and makes it harder for females to show their strengths. A study also “found that non-submitting students were more likely to be minorities, women, students with Learning Differences, Pell Grant recipients and first-generation college-goers” which means that these groups are not only at risk for testing worse than other groups because of biases, they’re also more likely to not submit their tests at all. This adds to how the tests are giving unfair advantages, and disadvantages, to different groups.

William Hiss, former Dean of Admissions for Bates College, stated how GPA should matter more because it covers “four-year, long term evidence of self-discipline, intellectual curiosity and hard work” (Sheffer, 2014) that is needed in college. He also explains how an interest that a student pursues to a higher level if it’s in sports or an extra curriculum club, also comes into play during admissions to prove that “the student can bring something to a higher level of skill” (Sheffer, 2014). Talking about “a single measurement tool that will be reliable across the enormous populations of American students”, Hiss says that the tests “only have predictive value for some people [but is not] reliable cross populations”. This adds to how the test score can be representable for some races, cultures and genders but not others.

Someone might argue that a lot of test-takers are better at taking tests like this than their GPA would give them credit for, and therefore we need to keep these requirements for college admissions. If the ACT or SAT is someone’s only way into higher education, the system could use these tests as an additional way of admission. Taking into regards that these students statistically have a lower chance of completing their college degree, they’re still getting their opportunity. “Optional testing is a potential route to getting many more students through higher education who normally would not be admitted or would not apply in the first place” (Sheffer, 2014). We want more people in higher education and letting people in on different requirements, fitting their strengths, is a great way to achieve that.

A solution to the problem that students admitted to colleges with low GPAs but high test scores are at higher risk for dropping out could be to add core classes that could help them throughout their time in college. One or more classes that would get them better equipped and prepared for college. Adapting to college is hard for almost everyone, especially if a student was already struggling with being consistent in their school work during high school. Recognizing that some students might need more help than others and making sure everyone knows what resources they have available could lower the risk of dropping out.

Standardized testing is also an “effective tool for pinpointing persistent learning or achievement gaps, which indicate disparities in educational quality and academic performance between and among different demographics of students.” (Gale, 2018) These tests can be used to improve the quality of education, however this could also change the teaching style and make teachers and schools focus more on testing that than the curriculum. This can lead to “score inflation, which can undermine the use of results as an honest measure of student abilities” (Gale, 2018). If we are going to use standardized testing as a tool for tracking the quality of the education, the tests should be modified to fit the curriculum so improving the actual education would give better results. These tests also shouldn’t affect the students, the teachers or the funding the school receives, but focus on what the school, the county and the state can improve and change to make sure the quality of education is high. An arrangement like this would keep the benefits from standardized testing without keeping the damaging effects of it.

Forbes (Cooper, 2018) looked at the college graduation rates by high school GPA and SAT or ACT score in less-selective public four-year colleges, for students graduating within six years. The graphic shows how a high GPA and a high test score gives a 72% graduation rate, but it clearly shows how a higher GPA affects the graduation rate more than a higher GPA score. If we compare a student with a high GPA (3.67-4.00) and a lower test score (800-890) to a student with a lower GPA (2.67-3.00) and a high test score (>1100) we see that the student with the high GPA has a 62% graduation rate, compared to a 39% graduation rate if the test score is high. This highlights how much better the GPA is at predicting college success than the test scores from the standardized tests. We can also see how rapidly the graduation rate decreases along with the GPA even with a high test score (>1100), from 72%, to 57%, 39% and 35% for the lower GPAs. The 35% graduation rate is compared to a 47% graduation rate on the opposite end of the scale, a low test score.

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