The Benefit of Test-Optional Colleges


Emily Thomas, Opinion Editor

Emily Thomas, Opinion Editor

“Standardized tests only assess a narrow scope of information, much of which is not necessary to many people later on.”

  In recent years, many colleges and universities have begun to advertise as being “test optional.” Many schools have recognized that relying solely on test scores is an inaccurate way to judge a student’s overall character and worth ethic. For other schools, this came into effect due to COVID-19, resulting from the fact that many highschoolers were unable to complete standardized tests. Despite the long tradition of testing and the supposed ability of tests to identify “smart” students, “test optional” schools are making a vital transition to ensure fair judgement of applicants from more than just one angle.

   First of all, some students simply are not good test takers. Many students struggle with test anxiety or become overly stressed when testing because they know of the implications that a certain test may hold for them. When students know that a single test factors so much into their chances of getting into college, their performance on a test may be less than desirable. All of these factors may prohibit a student from giving the test their best. Why should students be denied entrance to a school if they struggle with test anxiety or just did not have a good test day?

   Additionally, test scores are more of a reflec-tion on outside factors, largely out of a student’s control. For example, test scores reflect whether a teacher did their job to educate students and also reflect the ability of a school district to provide students with resources to practice and prepare for tests like the SAT or ACT. If a school does not offer prep classes and they are too expensive elsewhere, a student might have a harder time working towards a higher score.

   Test scores also partially reflect income and general wealth of an area for the same reasons. If someone’s parent did not attend college, they may not have the same drive to try and earn the desired “super score,” because the precedence was not already set to lead the way.

   Instead of relying largely on test scores, schools should pay more attention to the character of a student. For instance, a student may have average test scores, but prove to be a stellar leader; in theory, this should speak louder than someone with all high test scores with no other outside commitments or involvements. Also, if someone has a perfect (for example English) SAT score, but they have a low C in a non-honors English class, this would only go to prove that that student is lazy and does not care to improve themselves. Why would a college want to accept a lazy, unmotivated applicant? If a student is showing motivation to learn, perhaps by taking several AP classes, it suggests that a student is willing to put in the effort needed to be an efficient learner and college student.

   Lastly, how can SAT score (which is primarily math and English related) reflect a student’s ability to be successful in a non-math or English related career? If someone wants to major in religion or art history, a math score cannot fairly represent their performance otherwise.

   Standardized tests only assess a narrow scope of information, much of which is not necessary to many people later on. Ultimately, tests only represent what a student can recall on a single day in a four-hour span of time. Sure, SAT scores can be the icing on the cake for many well-rounded students, but they should not be the main thing stressed to students applying to college. Instead, difficult classes, extra curriculars, and leadership experience should be advocated to students trying to prove they have what it takes to be a stellar applicant.