Standardized Tests for Unstandardized Students



   “Standardized testing.” It’s a two word phrase that us juniors and seniors have become unfortunately familiar with it.  Simply the utterance of these words sends chills down our spines and adds undue stress to our lives.  Whenever the topic of upcoming ACT or SAT tests comes up, we are forced to face the harsh reality that our standardized testing scores play a pivotal role in deciding which college we will attend, no matter how much people may try to sugarcoat this idea, saying “Don’t stress! Colleges like you for you, not your score.”

   Personally, I believe that this is not the case, as colleges typically are only able to make admissions decisions based on how an applicant looks on paper, and thus, it is necessary for upperclassmen to prioritize standardize testing during

the college application process.

   However, I feel that standardized tests like the ACT and the SAT are underrepresentative of a student’s true capabilities, as they fail to highlight a student’s strengths sufficiently.  The providers of standardized tests have designed these tests as a means of measuring scholastic aptitude among students, but I believe that the system they have devised is impractical
and unfair.

   First, one major flaw with the standardized testing system is that it is a time crunch.  Time constraints on these types of tests put test takers at a major disadvantage, since it is extremely difficult for a student to stay focused and maintain a fairly regular pace of answering questions over many hours.  This time crunch also gives the upper hand to students who are quick-thinking and who perform well under pressure.  There is a whole different pool of students who may be just as intelligent, yet need time to formulate their ideas and articulate them or answer a question at hand thoroughly
and accurately.

   The time limit on these types of tests is also pretty unrealistic, considering that most people in the corporate world have deadlines drawn out over weeks, months, or years, to finish long-term projects rather than 60 minutes to complete “Section A.”  A student’s success in the real world can arguably be more accurately projected based off of their performance over several school years, as they work relentlessly over the course of several months to obtain a high cumulative GPA, and this is perhaps something that colleges should give precedence to over test scores.

   The other major problem with standardized testing, particularly the ACT, is that a student must perform relatively well across many subjects in order to achieve a good score.  The ACT includes a math section, reading section, English section, and science section, but colleges pay most attention to a student’s “composite” score, which is the average of all of their scores from all four sections.  The expectation that students should exhibit mastery of several different subjects is a rather lofty one, and is also impractical.

    In the real world, people are typically specialized in one field or are well-versed in one or two areas of study, and this is the most that colleges should expect of students: to perform excellent in one or two areas.  The goal of a four-year university is to develop students who will succeed in their chosen area of study upon graduation, not to develop students who will leave with such broad and shallow understandings of various areas of study that they will be lost while looking for
an occupation.

   Overall, it is understandable that colleges would heavily weigh standardized testing scores while making admissions decisions, but there are also several far more important factors that colleges should take more into consideration.  I am not saying that colleges should disregard standardized testing scores or lower their bar of expectations, but perhaps a few minor changes to the system of testing would be of major benefit to students. If students had fewer time constraints imposed on them, and if test material were kept rather narrow in scope, the standardized testing system would perhaps shed a more positive light on students, and that is a win-win for colleges and students alike.