Standardized Test Scores Should Be Optional

The outdated SAT and ACT tests should be made optional in the undergraduate application process at Pomona College. Pomona should join the rapidly growing number of colleges making these inherently discriminatory tests optional in order to promote a more diverse and engaged student body.

The initial purpose of the SAT was to provide an accurate prediction of college success regardless of race, socioeconomic class or geographic location. While this is still the rationale behind the SAT, the test is no longer an unbiased indicator of college success. This is not to say that standardized tests, used in conjunction with other indicators, are not useful. Such standardized tests can be an effective tool for combating the rampant grade inflation found within many of this nation’s high schools. The major problem I see with these tests is that they can be studied for.

Various forms of test preparation surround the SAT and ACT. Personalized tutors, review books, standardized test courses and various other preparatory goods and services account for a $4 billion-per-year industry. The problem with this preparation is that it is not available for everyone; Kaplan often charges over $100 an hour for private tutoring. This tutoring is also effective, and Kaplan offers a complete money-back guarantee if students don’t increase their test scores.

The College Board, the institution in charge of creating and administering the SAT tests, used to claim this test was a matter of inherent academic aptitude and thus couldn’t be studied for. This was quickly statistically disproved. As times have changed, even the College Board has begun selling its own study aides. Because scores on the SAT and ACT can be increased through expensive studying and preparatory materials, the test is skewed in favor of students coming from wealthier socioeconomic classes.

Both grades and achievement tests are significantly better predictors of academic success in college. A study published by the College Board found that SAT scores, if the level of parental education and income are controlled for, had no correlation with first-year grades.

Colleges that optionally accept SAT scores are becoming more and more prevalent, with over 900 colleges opting out of mandatory standardized testing in the college application process. Making SAT and ACT tests optional would show Pomona’s commitment to building a more academically talented and diverse student body. It would also draw a larger pool of applicants to Pomona. Students confident in their academic ability, but not in their ability to take a standardized test for which they couldn’t afford expensive tutoring, would be more likely to apply to Pomona.

Wake Forest University, ranked in the top 30 universities nationally, made standardized tests optional in 2008. In the years since, Wake Forest has seen a sharp growth in the percentage of students of color and international students applying. Pomona should take the plunge to make SAT scores optional.

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