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A commentary on Standardized Testing



Over the last century, standardized testing has become an integral part of the educational process of the United States. In 2019 alone, 2.2 million students took the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test), a 4% increase from the previous year (College Board, 2019). This is in conjunction with the 1.8 million students who took the ACT (American College Test) (ACT.org, 2019). However, during the 2020-2021 Covid Pandemic, the use of standardized testing was declared largely optional for the class of 2021 in their college admissions. Although this was done mainly due to the difficulty for some to take these tests in such a unique time, this action raises the question of if this trend will continue in the following years. This raises an alarming question of the greater impact of standardized tests on the overall college admissions model and therefore the life trajectory of millions of young students. Given this, there is strong reason to believe that standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT could potentially be stopped in the coming years.

A big reason for why these standardized tests may be reduced in use is that there is a substantial amount of evidence that shows standardized testing can have detrimental impacts on adolescents' health. Notably, standardized tests are known to have a negative correlation with mental health throughout both childhood and adolescence. This evidence was supported by a case study from researcher Laurie Schroer of Claremont Graduate University in which the connection between standardized testing and its impacts on anxiety and depression was established. In her research she states that, "Classroom behaviors, patterns of communication … and changes in social interactions revealed the tremendous pressure that students and teachers felt to … perform well on standardized tests and surveys. Student and teacher anxiety and depression were common themes in classroom observations, student drawings and teacher reports" (Schroer, 2006). This gives a strong scientific perspective on the drawbacks of standardized testing by showing how it can directly affect the stress and anxiety levels of children and adolescents. These findings therefore reveal that, at least from a students perspective, standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT have a negative impact on the overall educational needs of students and may not be necessary anymore.

In addition to the obvious mental harms mentioned in the previous paragraph, there are significant ethical issues surrounding the extensive influence of standardized testing on college admissions. In just the past 2 years, the SAT and ACT were involved in a series of scandals revolving around Operation Varsity Blues, a complex college admissions conspiracy through which hundreds of students were unfairly given an advantage in college admission. As detailed by Valerie Strauss, writer at the Washington Post, "The alleged schemes included hiring impostors to take SAT and ACT exams, or rigging the test by asking for additional time to take it even when that wasn't necessary… As high-profile as Varsity Blues is, it is just the latest issue facing the College Board, which owns the SAT, and ACT Inc. — including repeated cheating scandals and fundamental questions about the value of the scores”(Strauss, 2019). These scandals are just the latest example of how the mechanics of standardized testing give advantages to some and create barriers for others. The perpetrators of this scandal were wealthy enough to be given this extra edge and therefore were given a boost in the system through standardized testing. Following the revelation of these obvious holes within the college admission process as it pertains to standardized testing, a growing number of universities are shifting their view of standardized testing which will be further reinforced by the inconvenience of these exams due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Given an evaluation of multiple different perspectives on the impacts and usefulness of standardized testing, it is very obvious that standardized tests are a flawed method of evaluating college admissions which has been further highlighted due to the covid-19 pandemic. Standardized tests have been proven to have negative impacts on the psychological health of students as explained by an array of evidence. Although standardized tests still are a useful marker for measuring college success, their 21st-century impacts are growing increasingly limited as the college applicant pool diversifies from what it was when the SAT and ACT were originally developed. Given the increased importance of college admissions on determining factors in individuals that are far reaching in their impacts including their emotional well-being and mental health, it is imperative that flaws in the college admissions process such as standardized testing are rooted out. Therefore, in this time of increasingly selective college admissions, there is significant evidence to support the removal of SAT and ACT exams from the college admission process.


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