Opinion: Standardized testing should continue to be optional

Although the SAT can seem unnecessary to some, it can be others' best bet on their college applications.

Zachary Khouri

Although the SAT can seem unnecessary to some, it can be others’ best bet on their college applications.

Standardized testing should not be phased out of college admissions entirely because it can provide much-needed support for the rest of a student’s application. However, since requiring all applicants to submit their scores would be equally troublesome based on its history of discrimination, keeping it optional for students who want it considered is the best option. 

Every student has different needs and skillsets. While standardized testing could place some students at a disadvantage, it could be the best representation of another applicant’s abilities. Regardless, forcing all students to complete standardized testing or compelling admissions offices to abandon it entirely will not be in students’ best interests. 

Without standardized testing, college admissions offices have fewer measurements that they can use to understand applicants. Although people believe students should not be judged by the SAT because it’s only a number, that focus will still exist in the number of extracurriculars, leadership positions, GPA, and more. 

It is inevitable that if standardized testing is no longer included in the college admissions process, greater emphasis will be placed on extracurriculars and essays. This disadvantages students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, as equity in extracurricular opportunities will prove to be a more challenging endeavor. 

Participation in such extracurriculars isn’t a matter of “work ethic.” Instead, extracurriculars are often a measurement of who had the money to differentiate themselves from their peers. 

Not every student has the opportunity to perform research because of the limited options provided by their place of education; not every student has the monetary resources to pay for camps where they can study computer science at a collegiate level; not every student can take trips around the world as part of public health missions, but I digress.

Resources for standardized testing can and should be made more readily available and accessible to students from low-income backgrounds and racial minorities. Khan Academy has taken initial steps by providing free practice exercises online. Studying for 20 hours using Khan Academy is associated with a 115-point increase and only six hours a 90-point gain. 

The Khan Academy website has 10 practice tests, including essays. What makes Khan Academy effective is that it gears itself to the student’s needs. I recommend that in the weeks leading up to the test, students take 30 minutes of their time to do one or two practice activities in the reading and writing or math sections each day. Through this method, they can consistently develop their skills. It is especially beneficial if you are like myself and have difficulty setting hours away to take a full-length practice test. 

Some claim that standardized testing should be eliminated due to corruption, which has allowed wealthy people to pay for others to take the exam for them. These fears have been reignited after Netflix’s “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal.” 

Removing the SAT from college admissions to prevent this bias is the same as putting the jar of cookies on a higher shelf to keep a toddler from eating out of it: they’re going to find another way. Whether it’s by donating buildings, lying on their application, or bribing admissions officers, people who care little about the rules will search for loopholes. 

Ultimately, students should choose the most substantial aspects of their application that they wish to submit to colleges, whether that includes standardized testing or not. The solution is to make resources more equally distributed across student populations and allow students to choose between submitting their SAT scores or retracting them from the admissions process.

Only then can every student accurately represent their strengths for admissions offices to consider.

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