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The issues of standardized testing

Maverick Notes


GENTRYMy alarm sounds at 6 a.m. on Saturday, blaring “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys in a desperate attempt to cheer me up at such an ungodly hour.

Why was I up that early on a weekend? For the SAT, of course. No matter how much I wanted to, I could not escape the burden that befell me and that awaits almost every other college-bound high school student in the nation. And like almost every other high school student in the nation, I detest standardized testing.

However, it goes beyond a basic hatred for getting up early and sitting for four hours filling in bubbles. I argue that the SAT has many flaws that undermine its purpose. Even when disregarding the evidence for racial and socioeconomic bias, the SAT has become obsolete and doesn’t meet the goals it has set for itself.

The SAT was first administered to high school students in 1926. It was initially adopted by the College Board in an effort to standardize the admissions process, which is a goal that has continued into the present. This is because school curricula are not standard across the country, but the SAT is.

However, at a time when students’ extracurricular activities will arguably help them get into Cornell more than their grades and scores (as long as they also have good scores), the SAT is starting to become more of a hoop to jump through so that students’ applications don’t get immediately thrown out, rather than a test that determines what type of college students can get into.

One of the main goals of the SAT is to measure “what you learn in high school” and “what you need to succeed in college,” according to the College Board website. But from my personal experience in taking the SAT three times and being enrolled in an SAT prep class, I

can say that the SAT fails at this goal.

Take the critical reading section, for example: As high school students, we are taught that any interpretation of a piece is valid so long as we can provide concrete and specific evidence from the text. On the SAT, however, the only correct answer is the one marked by the test makers as being correct. Even if I interpret the text in a certain way and can point to places in the text that support my answer, if the test makers didn’t see it that way, then I’m wrong and I lose a quarter of a point.

The skills that the SAT measures actively contradict the skills learned in high school, meaning the SAT fails at the own goals it sets forth.

I am not advocating for a complete disbanding of standardized testing. There needs to exist some way to objectively measure one student’s intelligence against another for college admissions purposes. However, this must reflect the skills learned in high school and should not be weighted as heavily in the college admissions process.

Students should no longer feel as if they are merely jumping through a hoop to get into college; they should feel as if the four hours in the early morning on a weekend that they’re spending testing are a good use of their time.

Riverdale High School senior Tim Gentry is one of two Maverick Notes columnists. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..