by Carter Braun ‘23
The SAT and ACT have been administered to students across the United States for more than 60 years. According to the College Board who administers the SAT, its test measures a high school student’s readiness for college and provides colleges with one common data point that can be used to compare all applicants. The SAT and the competing ACT traditionally have been used to give colleges a consistent standard to compare students to one another. However, the pandemic hastened a national movement for many colleges and universities to go “test-optional” and remain that way in the future. The California State University system has gone even further in permanently ending the use of the SAT or ACT for college admissions to its schools. As time progresses, students are more vocally calling for the end of the tests altogether because of what they say are the tests’ inherent unfairness. But the truth is, an SAT and ACT score can demonstrate vital characteristics, such as study habits, test-taking skills, and common knowledge, and should remain test-optional throughout the United States.
The most logical way in ensuring a fair, equal opportunity for students is to give them the option of whether or not to submit their SAT or ACT scores to colleges to which they are applying. For their part, colleges and universities should stop considering test scores as a measure to deny admission and instead only regard scores as an enhancement or bonus to a student’s application. In other words, a student’s scores only can help, not hurt, their chances for admission. This would allow each student to be able to submit their good, impressive scores, but also have the opportunity to refrain from sharing a worse, disappointing score.
Standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT have been said to provide an unfair advantage to students with more wealth and privilege, as these students are able to afford private, personalized tutoring to prepare them for the test. These private tutoring sessions certainly can provide a leg-up for students able to afford it, and could result in these students getting a higher score than those with less access to tutoring. However, if these tests were to be optional, it would provide students with the chance to submit, or not submit their scores, even if they were to have tutoring or not. On top of that, colleges and universities in their decision process need to acknowledge the fact that some students are presented with tutoring while others are not.
The main reason why the SAT and ACT should remain optional to submit in college applications is because test taking skills are vital in demonstrating how well someone can work under pressure, and these scores represent that. Beyond merely test taking skills, the SAT and ACT scores are representative of basic knowledge and information that is beneficial to the future success of many students.
Despite many beliefs that the SAT or ACT can make or break one’s college hopes, it should simply be a sliver of the pie of criteria in which colleges look at when accepting or rejecting a student. The same goes for GPAs, extracurricular activities, leadership roles, and essays, due to the fact that some may not truthfully represent a certain student. For example, some students take extracurriculars solely for colleges to look at, and aren’t committed to that club or sport that they claim to be a part of. In addition, in a time of grade inflation, it’s become an unspoken rule that the expectation for college-bound students is to have an unweighted GPA above 3.75. This makes it harder to judge high school GPA because so many more are higher, making it difficult to differentiate high-achieving students from each other. The fact that no single criteria is perfect is another reason why SAT and ACT score should remain an option in the mix for evaluating students’ college applications.
Keeping these tests optional for college applications would give students with good scores the opportunity to flex their knowledge to the college they are applying to and increase their chances of acceptance. This would also allow for students who are poor test-takers to not be required to submit their potentially below-average scores, which may ultimately cost them an acceptance to university. There is a place for the SAT and ACT as long as colleges and universities make them an option rather than a requirement.