OPINION: Colleges should stop using the ACT/SAT


Piper Hansen

Gathering test scores, teacher recommendations and their high school transcripts, seniors are finishing their red folders and making their final decisions for college. Some colleges and universities require their applicants to include composite ACT scores as well as some subject SAT scores.

During a typical kindergarten through 12th grade education, the average public school student will take 112 mandatory standardized exams. While not every high schooler is required to take the ACT and SAT, they are the most emphasized because of their use in college admissions. 46.5% of high school graduates in 2006 took the ACT and 38.6% of these students took the SAT.

While these tests are an important milestone in a student’s education, they should not be used as heavily in the college application process. 

Created in 1959, the ACT is used to provide college admission committees with specifications so they can compare their applicants. While some universities are relying heavily on test scores to differentiate their students, others are looking more closely at individuality. Colleges that are counting on the standardized testing systems are putting themselves at a great disadvantage. Using test scores to eliminate applicants early causes a small niche of students to apply to the school, getting rid of other applicants who could be an addition to their school.

The schools that are requiring students to have high ACT scores aren’t keeping in mind the economics of the underprivileged. Students who are economically disadvantaged are unable to spend large amounts of money on prep classes, personal tutoring sessions and study material. Typically, students and their parents will spend anywhere from $1,000 to $1,600 on group sessions, somewhere between $3,000 and $9,000 a year on personal tutoring classes and will pay somewhere between $45 and $60 every time the student takes the ACT or SAT.

These costs are not realistic and should not be asked of high school students and their parents just so the opportunity of getting into a “good college” will come. The amount of paid resources dominates the world of test preparatory material, putting these economically challenged students at an extreme disadvantage when deciding the future of his/her education.

Economically challenged students aren’t the only ones who the test works against. Up until the 19th century, women were not permitted to receive an education. It has been proven time and time again that women learn differently from men. Both the ACT and SAT were created by white men, so one would think that standardized tests are used to help men succeed.

Race is also an important factor when talking about the legitimacy of the tests. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing found that students of color are more likely to get low scores on standardized tests because of the language used in the wording of questions and reading passages. Typically tests use academic English language, which is hard enough to comprehend even for students who speak English fluently. To make matters worse, neither test is available in languages besides English.

Not only are women, underprivileged students and students who aren’t used to the academic English language treated unfairly by the test but so are students who have auditory or visual learning styles and students who are more creative thinkers.  

It is unfair that colleges are ranking and using test scores from an obviously flawed system to determine the acceptance of a college or university applicant. Standardized tests don’t value the things that make students unique, which is what colleges should be looking for in their applicants. Many students today, especially at Manual, believe that the cost of test prep is worth it. “It will pay off in the long run,” is something you hear exchanged between students who are taking the tests. While this may be true, students, and more importantly, colleges and universities today should not compare themselves to a test score that is more likely than not, a misinterpretation of their intelligence.