Should ACT/SAT Scores Be Optional?

By Ariel Sheinberg

Standardized tests are something that all students dread. Students spend sleepless nights preparing for a few hours in a room that could determine what their future will look like. It’s a lot of pressure, and balancing homework and tests, extracurriculars, along with studying for your big exam is a lot of work. What if I told you, however, that some schools are no longer even requiring ACT and/or SAT scores?

You heard that right, if you’re applying to the University of Chicago, George Washington University, Bowdoin College, along with many others, taking the SAT and ACT is completely optional. Other schools, however, are test-flexible as opposed to test-optional. A test-flexible school may not require specifically an ACT or SAT score, but may ask that you submit an AP or other scores instead.

There are several reasons why certain schools have decided to become test-optional or test-flexible. Many say that flexibility in the test score department opens up selective schools to a larger range of socioeconomic statuses. The institutions that provide standardized tests are for profit, meaning that you have to pay to sign up for the exam, to cancel your exam score if you think you did poorly, and to retake the exam – not to mention all the money that goes into books, prep classes, and other supplies for the test. Many students do not have access to the resources needed to do well on these exams. Thus, these students may not have the opportunity to go to the schools they want.

Many students and parents believe that tests are not a reliable enough way to judge a student. When sophomore Sydney Dooley was asked whether she thought standardized tests were necessary, she answered, “I don’t think standardized tests are necessary. These tests put lots of unneeded pressure on students and students feel as if they have to do well on them, or else they won’t get into college.” Sydney went on to explain that she believes standardized test scores should not be one of the primary things colleges look at. She said, “These tests mean nothing but a number, whereas your grades from the last four years show your growth and hard work throughout school.”

Others students seem to agree with Sydney. Many students explain that feeling anxious before tests can sometimes affect their performance, and lead to lower grades. When your mind is wrapped up in how nervous you are, you aren’t able to do your best. Sophomore Talia Dinstein says, “Being nervous definitely affects my grades, especially on math tests.”

While hundreds of students and parents have a negative outlook on standardized testing, others claim that they are necessary for college admissions. Many say that test scores provide a direct basis of comparison, especially for elite schools. For example, if there are two students with the same high grades, both with outstanding achievements in extracurriculars, but one of them has higher test scores, the one with higher scores will likely get in. Many say that standardized test scores make the admissions process much easier for admissions officers.

Another reason that people claim taking the ACT and SAT are necessary is to hold high schools accountable for their quality of teaching. Aaron Churchill of the Fordham Institute believes that these tests are not only a crucial part of college admissions, but they ensure that schools are doing their jobs, and students are getting the quality education they deserve.

Whether you are anti-standardized testing or believe that the college admissions process is nothing without test scores, college applications are changing. Now, more than ever, students are able to make more choices for themselves and can build their application so that it truly represents them.