Standard testing doesn’t measure real skills

Standardized Exams Should Be Abolished

Every year high school students spend their time stressing about tests.
Photo: Taelar Pollmann · The Sentry

Every year, high school juniors and seniors trudge into some gymnasium, number-2 pencils in hand, to take exams that decide their futures. The SAT and the ACT are cornerstones of the college application process. Except for this year, many colleges are opting to not require the 3-hour torture sessions for admittance.

Standardized exams are undebatably biased. The inequities of the country are directly reflected in SAT performance. According to a study from The Brookings Institute, a nonprofit public policy organization, black and Latinx students perform significantly poorer on the SAT than their white and Asian counterparts. Additionally, economic class skews performance data: students from wealthier families have increased access to study resources, and are often in schools with greater educational resources overall. Even just to take the SAT, students need to pay between $50-$65, which can absolutely be a barrier for students from low-income families. Add the costs of study books and tutors, and taking the 3-hour exam can be near-impossible. 

Most standardized exams don’t even test actual, necessary skills. Rather, nearly every standardized exam focuses primarily on reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and other basic skills that students learn very early on in their studies. The SAT contains a writing section, which is easily replaced by personal statement letters, a reading section, and a mathematics section. All of these areas can be easily evaluated based on a student’s grades and GPA.   

But the SAT and the ACT are not the only exams that are useless, classist, and downright unnecessary. The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) absolutely does not indicate whether a student will be a good lawyer; it just tests how well a student can read and solve puzzles. The GRE is basically a college-level equivalent of the SAT: a generalized exam that studies critical reasoning, reading comprehension, blah blah blah. But if students spend four years focusing on a particular discipline, and are taking the exam to get another degree in the said discipline, why do they need to be tested on areas outside of that discipline? 

Sure, some standardized exams test necessary things. The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), used for students hoping to attend medical school, is a concrete exam that focuses on actual knowledge students will use in the future, not some basic, fundamental knowledge. But even in taking the MCAT, the ability to perform well certainly depends on financial access to study resources, thus creating a divide between the haves and the have-nots.  Many institutions of higher education are beginning to recognize these discrepancies, and are making standardized exams optional for admission. 

For the current admission cycle, CU Denver is not requiring applicants to take the SAT or ACT as a result of reduced access created by the pandemic. If the switch is that easy if universities have the ability to evaluate applicants based on actual academic and personal achievement portrayed through the rest of the application, why not make the change permanent? Why revert back to using an outdated, biased, and downright unnecessary metric like standardized tests?

This is a selection from the September 09 issue. To view the full issue, visit:

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