An end to mandatory standardized testing

Natalia Santis, Editor for Lenses

During the second week of April, all Glenbard students excluding seniors took some form of a standardized test, whether that be the PSAT or the SAT. Administered by The College Board, the PSAT was given to freshman and sophomores and will be used for scholarship funding and as a practice round prior to taking the actual SAT test. The SAT, on the other hand, has been the most widely taken standardized test alongside the ACT used for college admissions. The state of Illinois had mandated that all students must take the SAT at some point during high school. With this being said, should standardized testing remain mandatory?

The SAT is composed of two sections: reading comprehension with grammar and non-calculator/calculator math computation. There is an essay portion of the test, but unless the test is being taken at school, it is optional. The highest score a test taker can receive is 1600, but how can it be said that a test composed of only two subjects can accurately measure a student’s intelligence? High schoolers take a variety of different subjects, including history, science, art and music. If a student excels in one of these areas, an SAT score would be unable to showcase that. Subsequently, this score affects a student’s chances of being accepted into certain schools. While more and more universities are choosing to be test-optional, there still are multitudes of selective schools that require standardized testing scores.  

What is there to be said about students who do not plan on entering college? With university costs on the rise and an interest in higher education on the decline, many students have looked towards trade schools and the military as alternatives to college. Most often, vocational schools do not require SAT or ACT scores. Yes, the SAT taken at school is paid for,  but if a student would like to improve his or her score or cannot make the assigned school test date, payment for additional tests comes from his or her own pocket. Schools and universities encourage students to retake standardized tests to attain the best score, so why should a student need to pay for a retake of a test that is mandated by the state itself? To go even further, why should a student uninterested in higher education be advised to prepare for and forced to sit through a three-hour-long exam? Unfortunately, there is no logical explanation that would demonstrate the benefits the test has on students.

Proponents of standardized testing argue that SAT and ACT scores can reflect and pinpoint the academic areas that need improvement. Not only would scores demonstrate what an individual must work on but also any improvements that can be made within the school curriculum. When academic strength can be condensed into a single number, it is easy for schools to compare their scores with other schools. The issue that remains is the content that the actual test contains. While it is easy to assume that a student with a high math score is phenomenal at processing information and abstract reasoning, researchers have discovered that standardized test scores have very little correlation with memory and processing speed. A strong math score may just indicate that the test taker is skilled in something called rote memorization, material recalled by intense repetition, and answering multiple-choice questions. All in all, test anxiety and unfamiliarity with testing methods can have a larger impact on a student’s score than any knowledge acquired and preparation made prior to the test date.

Ultimately, standardized tests like the SAT can be harmful when used to measure a student’s intellectual capability. Looking at all inherent flaws within the standardized testing realm, tests like the SAT and ACT should be made optional. If a student chooses to take the exam, he or she should have the power to send the scores to whichever school they would like and do what they deem fit with the scores. Students not willing to take the exam should be held penalty-free. Standardized testing is not for everyone and the state of Illinois should not try to force it upon anyone.