Covid-19 has changed many aspects of higher education. Are standardized test requirements one of them?
With the March and May SAT cancelled in many parts of the U.S., top-tier colleges, including MIT and Tufts University, are no longer requiring applicants to report their standardized test scores (Bloomberg). The tagline for Bloomberg’s article reads “The tests were already losing currency, in part because they favor wealthy applicants. Covid-19 forces the issue.” (Bloomberg).
In recent years, the SAT and the ACT have been slammed for their “rigid structure” and perpetuation of the wealth gap. Educators often view these standardized tests as an arbitrary way to determine a student’s chance of admission to various colleges, as they penalize test-takers who think in unconventional ways (The Washington Post). In addition, machine-scored standardized tests are “unavoidably biased” by ethnic, regional, social-class, and cultural differences (The Washington Post). In particular, in regards to social-class bias, many have asserted that these tests result in unfair advantages for those who can afford test prep, as well as those who can afford to take the tests multiple times.
“The tests were already losing currency, in part because they favor wealthy applicants.”Janet Lorin from bloomberg
The spread of the coronavirus has thrown high school students into home-based, online learning as well as pass-fail grade scenarios at a rapid pace. Moreover, both ACT and the College Board have cancelled their tests until June, making it difficult for the majority of students to take or retake their tests before their application process begins in the fall (Bloomberg). As a result, numerous colleges have decided to omit standardized test scores from their admission requirements, as they believe that, according to the dean of admissions at Tufts University, Joseph Duck, “Taking a standardized test for college admissions should not be at the forefront of their thinking” (Bloomberg). However, other colleges, such as Oregon State University, stress that they have been discussing the idea of omitting standardized test scores from their application process since last fall, way before the emergence of a global pandemic, in part because of the reasons mentioned above.
What does this mean for juniors at SAS who are also applying for university this coming fall? Although many SAS students are trained and encouraged to take the October or December SAT, there are still many who chose to take their first test in March. Thus, the most recent test was their first try, and with the May SAT cancelled internationally, they will have to wait until June to (hopefully) be able to retake the SAT. Fortunately, these new regulations ease the stress for these juniors, as their application will not be penalized for the lack of a standardized test score, or the best score they could have achieved. But, knowing SAS students, they will most likely find a way to get the score they want before applying to these schools.
Nina Antonio, a junior at SAS, has always thought that “standardized tests are definitely not an accurate measure of a person’s intelligence or how well they will do in college or in life.” To her, these new circumstances should have been the case long ago. However, Alexandra Fu, another junior at SAS, explains that she is still planning to retake the SAT: “I do not want my options for colleges to fall short and only be applicable to colleges that don’t require the SAT, which I think is also another one of the loopholes where you can find fault with the whole standardized testing system…which is that even though there are schools that don’t require the SAT, there’s still a lot of schools that do.”
Ultimately, Covid-19 has forced educators to rethink current methods of testing, and whether they are truly beneficial for students as we head into the future. Juniors at hundreds of thousands of high schools are largely affected by these decisions as they head off to university. As they mull over whether to continue prioritizing standardized tests in their admissions processes, as well as work hard to keep their grades up during the eminent loom of this global pandemic, a major question arises: Is this an opportunity to abolish standardized test requirements forever?
With the constant speculation surrounding the effectiveness of the SAT and the ACT, the answer to this question may seem clear for some. But for others, such as those from universities that do not have or are not willing to look for other ways to evaluate incoming admissions, there may not be a clear answer. As Jon Boeckenstedt, vice provost of enrolment management at Oregon State University, states: “The bigger issue is whether they could go ‘test optional’ for a single year and then go back” (Bloomberg).