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The Tainted World of Standardized Testing

Written by: Angelina Burkhardt
From: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Edited by: Luana Mayer

At the onset of the 20th century, the first test was created. It was a single piece of paper used to determine the level of academic intelligence amongst thousands of students. Times have changed, the education system has been renewed; yet, we still use tests to assess teenagers. When scientists began developing tests specifically designed to detect a person’s intelligence quotient, ability to use logic and reasoning, the standardized test was born. For many years universities around the world have relied heavily upon standardized tests for their student’s applications. However, due to the educational challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, many academic institutions are highlighting the outdated, and discriminatory nature of these assessments.

Firstly, which standardized tests do universities depend on, and why? Most academic institutions ask applicants to provide either SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) or ACT (American College Test) scores. These two scores are the foundation for your college acceptance or rejection. With time the score expectations have risen rapidly, in 2019 the average SAT score of a Harvard student was 1530 out of 1600, while the average score in 2005 was 1380 out of 1600. Universities explain that they rely on these tests because they provide schools with an unbiased way of concluding students’ academic level. However, due to the high-stakes environment surrounding these assessments, many students feel pressured to study to point of experiencing sleep deprivation, lack of social life, and even depression. 

Secondly, why have universities started to make standardized test scores optional for their applicants? When the Coronavirus began in 2020, schools across the world pushed SAT and ACT testing dates back. Due to the academic dishonesty happening during online testing, colleges began questioning the validity of online standardized tests. Pre-pandemic, 1070 universities were test-optional, in contrast, now there are 1886 universities that are test-optional. 

Additionally, the increased usage of social media began highlighting the discriminatory nature of standardized tests. Due to the fact that 95% of students that achieve higher than average scores take advantage of expensive SAT prep schools, and tutoring institutions, students that are at an economic disadvantage feel as if standardized testing favors rich applicants. Moreover, schools have seen an increase in students’ interest in clubs, sports, and their general academic success with the elimination of the immense pressure caused by these assessments. Universities now focus more on the growth of the applicants throughout their high school years, rather than a four-digit number that could be tainted by their economic status. 

To conclude, the SAT and ACT tests are both extremely outdated and serve no purpose in the education system today. The coronavirus allowed colleges to finally recognize the many flaws these tests have and the unhealthy habits that they push onto the younger generations. Finally, do you want to live in a society where your children’s worth is determined by a three-hour test?

The Tainted World of Standardized Testing: Feature Story
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