Standardized Testing is Optional and That’s the Best Thing That Could Happen


Isabella Mahar

For many students, they prepare for the SAT and ACT by using test prep books, such as this one, filled with tips and tricks on how to get a few extra points. However, lots can’t afford them leaving them with less preparation than more affluent peers and one of the reasons why these students tend to do poorer on standardized tests.

Isabella Mahar, Opinion Editor

For decades the Scholastic Aptitude Test and the American College Testing, otherwise known as the SAT and ACT, have been a standard in the journey to college. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, students in many regions won’t be able to take these tests in the near future, which is ultimately the best possible outcome. 

Not taking the SAT this year isn’t an individual problem, it’s a universal affair affecting many scholars. However, this opportunity not only offers a better solution for students this year, but a complete turnaround of a college admissions system based on inequality. 

The notion has always been that if you want to go to a good college, you have to get an exceptional standardized test score. Look up “can I get into blank college?” and dozens of search engines with calculations based on SAT and GPA will come up, saying whether or not you have a chance. 

However, this ideal is unfair to students who are poor test takers, low-income students, and people of color. 

The first thing to regard is the obvious, that not everyone is a good test taker. 

These tests are nonetheless a great disadvantage to good students who are just bad test takers. Their scores, in the circumstance that they come out low, aren’t properly recognizing whether they are good students or will do poorly in college, just that they had a bad day. 

I am still not sure if I should take it or not, since most of the colleges I want to apply to are test optional. I am worried that if I don’t take it, it would put me at a disadvantage, but at the same time I am not sure if I have enough time to study for it”

— Cecelia Li

In addition, these tests are directly harmful to students of color and of lower incomes. Students of these backgrounds commonly have a low SAT but otherwise fantastic applications. 

It is no shock that the SAT is an exam about test taking. If you can afford to be tutored then of course you’ll get a great score. If you can afford to pay the $64.50 in order to take the test multiple times, then of course you’ll do better than the student who could only afford to take it once. 

In addition, the SAT is an unfair display of a student’s knowledge and their potential success levels in college. UC Riverside is a college which is known for helping students of disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in college, not weighing the SAT scoring heavily, allowing students with lower scores to still be admitted. 

According to data shown through UC Riverside Admissions, while students with a high GPA and test scores do have a higher college success rate, it is only a slight one. Students with a high GPA and lower testing scores, still do very well, proving that you can still succeed in college without a great SAT score. 

This year, colleges have moved to an optional test policy due to many students being unable to take these tests. 

It’s a complex issue, some students being unsure of how this will affect their admissions decision. This is especially poignant here in Orange County, where current seniors will most likely be unable to take the SAT at any point since most testing dates have been postponed or cancelled. 

“I am still not sure if I should take it or not, since most of the colleges I want to apply to are test optional. I am worried that if I don’t take it, it would put me at a disadvantage, but at the same time I am not sure if I have enough time to study for it,” said senior Cecelia Li. 

In addition, those who have taken the SAT are stuck with their current score and now have to decide whether to submit a score that they wanted to be better, or not submit at all. 

“I don’t feel too good about it since I didn’t get the score I wanted the first time. I know there are people who never got to take it but I’m also not sure if I should send my current score,” said senior Jieun Choi. 

While it’s horrible for juniors and seniors to not have the opportunity to take or retake the SAT and ACT exams, for many students this is immensely beneficial. Not only is it good for the present, but if this years’ admission cycle goes well, it could change the whole college admissions process entirely. In the circumstance that it goes well, colleges have an opportunity to see that a student is more than a test score.

A revamp in the admissions process is necessary, so hopefully this change will encourage the test to be optional moving forward, helping all students have an opportunity to go to a great college without the pressure of an unfair exam.