Reexamining Exams: Should the ACT and SAT be eliminated?


Teacher Svetlana Djananova monitors students as they take an ACT test in preparation for the college admission exam at HS2 Academy in Arcadia, Calif. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Lucia Hruby, Photo Editor

Beads of sweat roll down the palms of my hands as I slip into my assigned desk in a classroom, surrounded by twenty other students who I begin to see as competitors.   Knots began to form in my stomach as I try to control my anxiety.  “Don’t stress,” I tell myself.  “Your test scores will only be compared to one hundred thousand other high school students and determine whether or not you get into a good university, get a steady job, and be successful in life”  I begin taking a test that will decide my future.

As a junior, I have devoted the last couple of months to preparation for the SAT and ACT.  An enormous amount of emphasis has been placed on these tests nationwide and they have become a major factor in college acceptances.  This has resulted in extreme stress for college applicants.  To ease the stress on students, all universities around the country should not require SAT and ACT scores for applications, and instead should adopt the test-optional admission policy.  This policy means that applicants can choose not to submit their admission test scores for their application.

While ACT and SAT scores are not the only significant component in the admission process,  59% of all universities place considerable importance on this factor, according to “Factors in the Admission Decision,” a study done by the NACAC.  This means students who have not performed very well on these tests are burdened by their scores.

While test scores allow colleges to easily and objectively compare applicants, not all high performing students are good test takers.  These admissions tests measure a student’s ability to perform at a fast pace but don’t assess creativity or problem-solving skills that are equally, if not more, important.  The structure of the tests encourage students to outsmart the test and use tricks to narrow down answer choices, rather than actually thinking about what a question is asking.

Not only are these exams a challenge for poor test takers, but also for students coming from lower income families.  A payment of about $50 is made each time the ACT or SAT is taken. According to “Testing, Testing,” an article published by the New York Times, there has been a recent increase in the number of students who take both the ACT and SAT to improve their application portfolio. Many students feel pressured to repeatedly take the SAT/ACT in order to improve their scores.  The test no longer tests a student’s intellectual ability, but their ability to finance taking both the ACT and SAT multiple times in order to be successful in their scores.

Schools that provide Test-optional applications accommodate for all types of students, weak and strong test takers, and force the university to examine the student as a whole.  These types of schools have become more popular over the years as college acceptances becomes more competitive.  According to “The Test Optional Surge,” an article published in The New York Times, schools that are test optional have seen a rise in the number of applicants and in the number of minority applicants.