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  • Chloe Mastour

Opinion: Test-Optional? Colleges Do Away with SAT to Diversify Campus

Test-Optional? Colleges Do Away with SAT to Diversify Campus

In recent years, many American colleges and universities have removed standardized testing requirements. Every 10 days, on average, another university makes these tests optional for admission. Most schools nowadays take pride in “a commitment to diversity” rather than the strength of a meritocracy and diversity of thought. Rather than allowing students to compete on a level playing field, a record number of schools are going “test-optional.”

Maybe you’re a student reading this who has already taken the SAT, the ACT, or you plan to take either one in the future. The purpose of the SAT is to predict college readiness. While the test cannot account for certain external factors of success, such as a student’s motivation and discipline, it is nonetheless a good measure of success in college. The University of Minnesota conducted a large-scale meta-analysis and found that a student’s SAT score is just as precise an indicator of their freshman GPA as it is their overall college GPA. Moreover, a study by Vanderbilt has shown that the SAT, which is essentially an intelligence test, is a reliable predictor of life long after college. There exists a very high correlation between SAT scores and IQ scores; both SAT and IQ scores remain relatively stable in time and neither score can significantly improve through practice (research has shown that SAT courses only improve scores by 20 points). While a noteworthy improvement, 20 points is not a significant factor to conclusively settle the debate as to whether intelligence can be modified (almost always, it is the prep course with the financial incentive inflating the numbers to be of actual significance). No matter the copious notes and practice, without the capacity to independently achieve proficiency in algebra and reading comprehension, significant improvement is unlikely.

Without standardized testing as an application requirement, how will schools measure the level of college readiness among their applicant pools? Should high school extracurricular activities matter when our colleges are training, say, the next generation of doctors? The smartest and most skilled should be in a position that requires the smartest and most skilled for the job. However, critics often claim that intelligence tests have once been used to prove racial superiority, and therefore, must be abolished now; this is no different than the idea that because guns have been used in bad ways before, the second amendment must be repealed.

Some might argue that human beings shouldn’t be reduced to a test score; however, if we reduce the vast experience that is human life to our age, then why not reduce human intelligence to a number? The SAT and other standardized intelligence tests are used to objectively quantify intelligence on a scale and compare your number with others.

The number one reason colleges cited for dropping the SAT and ACT tests as an admission requirement, is the belief that they favor students in wealthier families, who usually perform better, creating an unfair advantage. Critics of the tests have long argued that they reflect income more than ability, a chorus that is growing louder. The notorious Varsity Blues admission scandal-in which parents bribed test administrators to change test scores or let students cheat-reinforced the idea that the tests can be gamed, legally or illegally, by families with enough money.

Sure, wealthier students can afford private tutors and can afford to take the test multiple times. Of course we will observe different outcomes across socio-economic divides, where higher incomes are associated with higher standardized test scores. However, this is a criticism of intelligence, not the SAT. A correlation between wealth and SAT scores shouldn’t surprise anyone. Higher scores among wealthier students are not attributable to the prep courses (perhaps in some instances), but because there is a strong correlation between IQ and future income. Considering that IQ is mainly genetic, of course there is a correlation between a family’s wealth and a student’s test scores.

The main problem with abolishing standardized tests is that the results of the policy could very much backfire on students. If schools do away with standardized tests, no longer defining students by a number, more weight is placed on GPA, extracurriculars, character, perhaps. With a greater focus on extracurricular involvement, students must be able to afford these activities to stand out on a college application; such a policy will put the low-income families (the said beneficiaries of this policy) at a disadvantage, creating a real unequal playing field. The same goes for GPA and grade inflation. The average GPA in this country has been increasing despite no evidence of academic improvement in the past few decades; who would’ve thought that wealthy schools, interested in maintaining their prestige, are responsible for this phenomenon? By increasing the focus on GPA, wealthier students are likely to be the strongest candidates for top colleges. Once again, progressive policies are harming those which they claim to help.

All in all, abolishing the SAT stems from a disbelief in inequality of outcome and natural social hierarchy. SAT scores are observed under a racial lens to conclude that the problem lies within the test, not the students. Labeling the SAT as “biased” is a rhetorically genius strategy; biased simply means “showing favor to.” Many are of the belief that the SAT puts all minorities (except for Asians, somehow) at a disadvantage, and so, schools must eliminate the SAT. Anything that is not perfectly equal in outcome is by definition, “biased.” According to the Left, all bias is unfair; therefore, equality of outcome must be established to ensure true fairness.

Recently, the discussion has shifted to introducing an “adversity score” which delineates the difficulty of one’s life and then factors that score into one final score. Depending on a student's SAT score, their race, and their neighborhood, schools will subjectively decide whether they are just as qualified as students who performed better.

If you’ve taken the SAT, you know that equality of opportunity cannot exist without inequality of outcome. All societies are predisposed to a set hierarchy. Human beings are different and our differences enable different outcomes. Therefore, the best hope for truly intelligent people who happen to be in poor circumstances is the SAT. Preserving the integrity of the SAT is of the utmost importance to ensure equal opportunity. The SAT is the only pure assessment of a student’s potential on an objective scale.

Anything else is un-American.

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