Standardized testing blocks way of prospective students


David Delgado // The Daily Cougar

Standardized testing is a waste of time — for the most part, anyway. While there is some credibility behind standardized testing, there’s too much emphasis placed on it.

Universities across the United States are starting to realize this. Currently, 800 colleges and universities out of roughly 3,000 use a test-optional or test-flexible policy, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. This means that these institutions allow students to choose whether they want to send in their SAT or ACT scores.

In 2009, William Hiss, former dean of admissions for Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, released his study “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions.” The study concluded that there are no significant differences in the grades and graduation rates between students that chose to submit their scores and the students that did not.

According to the study, “just 0.05 percent of a GPA point separated the students who submitted their scores … and those who did not. And college graduation rates for ‘nonsubmitters’ were just 0.6 percent lower than those students who submitted their test scores.”

“SATs and ACTs should be viewed as extracurriculars in the sense that they give one aspect of a student’s ability,” said hotel and restaurant management junior Mary Ann Chou.

Hiss agreed that there are too many different components to human intelligence and that standardized testing systems cannot capture it.

However, standardized testing is a good way to capture one aspect of intelligence.

The SAT started out as an army IQ test that grew in popularity after Ivy League schools adopted it as a standard in the late 1930s. After that, schools nationwide saw it as a way to attract students who would normally have been noticed only because they came from a prestigious background.

However, the SAT then became overused in the college admission process. It discourages students from applying to a particular school if they believe their scores aren’t good enough. The scores can definitely help spot a talented student, but they often prevent applications instead of encouraging them.

Business junior Paulo Pham said he saw the flaw in accepting students on a numerical basis.

“You can’t judge someone strictly based on numbers,” Pham said. “You already have the student’s GPA for that. Why would you need another number?”

Concerning GPA, the study did show that high school grades matter — a lot. For students who submitted their test results and those who didn’t, high school grades were the best predictor of college success.

Standardized testing does help round out a student’s academic profile, but submitting standardized test scores should be an option, not a requirement.

“The SAT shouldn’t be used as acceptance unless a student willingly sends their scores in,” Pham said. “If a student chooses to send in their test scores, then there’s an off-chance of it counterbalancing a potentially horrible GPA.”

The SAT and ACT are often criticized for measuring only how well a student can take these tests and how they favor students that can afford test preparation.

The test is always evolving, according to officials at The College Board, as shown by the changes enacted earlier this year. A previous study showed that both SAT scores and high school grades strongly predicted how well students did in their first year of college. College Board officials believe that the SAT is a valuable tool in determining how eligible a student is for college.

Officials working for the ACT also believe that in terms of deciding whether or not to admit a student to a university, the more information students give, the better their chances.

However, high school grades still seem to be the stronger indicator of how well a student does in college. They’re more consistent during a longer period of time and show more dedication and motivation than a four-hour test taken in one morning.

For UH to adopt such a policy, the state of Texas needs to loosen up its mandated admission policies.

However, Director of Student Recruitment Jeff Fuller doubts that test-optional admissions will be in the near future for southern universities.

“Test-optional is a phenomenon at northeast and eastern universities. The south of the southwest, particularly Texas … will not find public universities with test-optional admission policy,” Fuller said.

The requirement to be considered for admission to any public university in Texas is either to successfully complete the required high school curriculum set forth by the Texas Foundation; get at least a 1500 out of 2400 on the SAT; or get 18 in English, 22 in math, 21 in social sciences and 24 in science on the ACT.

UH requires SAT or ACT scores to be sent in, asking for a minimum score of 1000 for the top 11 to 25 percent and 1100 for the top 26 to 50 percent. The top 51 percent and under go through individual review, while the top 10 percent have no minimum score required.

It would be great if UH became part of the growing list of Tier One universities to adopt a test-optional policy, such as Arizona State University and Texas A&M University at College Station. Becoming test-optional opens up the admission pool to even more diversity.

As the second-most diverse school in the nation, we want to maintain that status and show that people won’t be be judged only by their test scores. Quality education is available for all, no matter the score on a one-time test.

Opinion columnist Julie Nguyen is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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