Standardized tests fail to measure true aptitude

Joyce Fang, Contributor

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In 2018, 2,136,539 high school students spent three hours bent over a desk, slaving over endless multiple-choice questions on the most influential test of their student careers – the SAT.

And every year the SAT has been administered, countless students applying to the 88.2% of colleges that value admissions testing fail to achieve high enough scores for a shot at their dream colleges, despite hours of work dedicated to their goals.

But how can colleges value a mere three hours locked in a testing room so highly when selecting their next class of undergraduates?

Put simply, they shouldn’t. The test that’s marketed as a spot-on predictor of college success and a reliable admissions tool is effectively an elitist wrench, keeping the rich successful and the poor suppressed. And through it all, it’s the faceless companies administering admissions tests who reap the benefits of high schoolers’ toil, not the students who only seek to further their education.

Only 44 percent of high schoolers attend a four-year college and actually need the SAT. Yet the middle to upper classes place it on such an unshakeable pedestal, too far out of reach for the majority of the population, but just close enough for that inner circle of well-off Americans – the ones who can afford the best tutors, school districts, and opportunities –  to unlock its power at ease.

And it’s clear that it doesn’t take these opportunities to “succeed” on the SAT. Just ask the hundreds of families who’ve bought their way into university with inflated test scores and extracurriculars, all without a single glance to the students who must struggle to mirror their illusions.

In 2017, students who didn’t use a fee waiver had an average score of 1087, while students who did scored an average of 978 points – more than 100 points lower.

Fortunately, there’s another metric that’s proven to be more accurate than a simple SAT or ACT score. And every single school across the nation, regardless of financial status, uses it.

A student’s GPA.

The GPA is the culmination of every single endeavor a student has completed throughout their years. It’s dependent on a student’s attendance, completion of assignments, and attentiveness in class, all extremely beneficial habits to have as one starts college.

Of course, the skills that the SAT tests are useful. There’s no doubt that a student will need to have critical reading, writing, and math skills as an undergraduate.

But if the SAT is purely a test of these skills, why do students “need” to buy prep books and tutors to succeed? How has the desperation of parents and students evolved into a multibillion-dollar market, with for-profit companies like Kaplan making $1.5 billion in 2017?

Popularized SAT strategies such as skipping harder questions to raise your score without actually developing your skills are glossed over as a tried-and-true method, but they actually prove that the SAT is about how well you know the test, not the material.

And with test-prep companies advising students to fake disabilities for extra time, cases of students being paid to take the SAT for others, and wealthy parents throwing money at proctors to fake scores, it’s impossible for colleges to really rely on the SAT. We can’t truly know how pervasive this problem has been throughout the test’s history. How many more of America’s elite have paid to keep the media silent?

We cannot stand by as standardized testing obstructs the view of disadvantaged Americans to higher educational opportunities. And only then can the prospect of higher education be visible to every American who ever dared to dream above their circumstances.