Students hoping to enter the University of California (UC) system in the near future could face an unexpected twist. UC officials are considering whether to drop both the SAT and ACT as an admissions requirement in light of growing complaints of the tests’ biases against lower-income and disadvantaged students.
A UC-led task force assembled to analyze related research on the SAT and ACT will issue a report next year about whether the standardized tests should be required as a part of college admissions.
In an LA Times article, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ and UC Provost Michael Brown stated why research convinced them to support eliminating standardized testing for college entry.
“Performance on the SAT and ACT [is] so strongly influenced by family income, parents’ education and race that using them for high-stakes admissions decisions [is] simply wrong.”
Many students at PVHS are on the same page as officials, questioning how fairly and how accurately the tests measure whether a student is a good match for a university.
“I don’t think the SAT and ACT are fair because they test knowledge in a very specific way that not all students excel in, even if they are extremely intelligent,” senior Gretchen Richter said.
One unfair aspect of the tests has to do with test anxiety, an element that makes it especially difficult for some students to take standardized tests.
“I think knowing about how much this test could affect my college career really stresses me out and gives me a huge amount of anxiety,” junior Samantha Laurin said. She added that “it is very hard to focus and not get too frustrated on the test.”
That is not the only factor that students say has the ability to influence scores on these tests, where test-taking ability plays a critical role.
Richter added that the current admissions process requiring all applicants to take the SAT and report their score “gives an advantage to people who use test prep courses.”
She believes that not everyone has equal access to test preparation.
“There’s definitely a financial barrier in getting effective [preparation] for the SAT or ACT that I think can have a significant impact on improving test scores,” she said.
On the other hand, some people think that the tests are useful.
The SAT has historically been a benchmark for gauging college applicants’ abilities in a consistent way. Academic rigor varies greatly among schools, and standardized testing has been considered an important tool for predicting college performance beyond GPAs.
“I don’t consider standardized tests to be unfair,” junior Maya Whitcomb said. “Taking the SAT was beneficial to me. I…consider myself to be a pretty good test-taker under pressure [and] having a solid SAT score will definitely be helpful [for getting into the college I want].”
According to FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, “more than 1,000 colleges and universities in the US have become test-optional…[with] 47 more schools joining in the last 12 months, double the number over last year.”
Many students are siding with this accelerating test-optional movement.
“Honestly I think it is [a] great idea for the UC’s to get rid of the SAT [and] ACT because it stresses all students and it is unfair…because people that are not financially stable cannot afford expensive test preparations,” junior Carolina Martel said.
With a growing emphasis on equity between all prospective college students, the concept of a test-optional application process is seen as a positive and progressive step to some PVHS students.
“I just think there are a lot of other valuable qualities an applicant can have other than their performance on a standardized test,” Richter said. “I hope to see a shift towards creating an applications culture where students are encouraged to be great people rather than just great test takers.”