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US colleges reinstate standardized testing

Source: MBC News
Source: MBC News

Earlier this year, colleges across the United States announced that they will be reinstating standardized testing starting from the 2025-’26 school year. As of April, top universities such as Brown, Dartmouth and Yale already announced their requirement of SAT and ACT scores during admissions.


Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent closing of test centers due to quarantine regulations, many colleges implemented a test-optional policy that made it possible for students to choose whether to submit standardized test scores. This relieved students from the burden of scoring well on the SAT or ACT, offering those choosing to not take standardized tests an opportunity to focus on grades and extracurricular activities. 


This decision to reinstate standardized testing was based on the notion that it benefits low-income students who often have more limited access to educational resources compared to their wealthier counterparts. Its objectivity allows colleges to easily visualize a student’s abilities with numerical data. 


The sudden announcement of the reinstatement comes at a time where many students projected to graduate in the next few years had not planned on taking the SAT. This has left many high school students confused as to how they should progress to adapt to this new policy and scrambling to prepare to take the SAT in fear that its omission would be detrimental to their college applications. 


This news has also led to the crowding of testing centers. In one extreme case, a mother had to drive 80 miles to find an available testing center in order for her child to take the SAT, as he was a junior in high school.


“[The reinstatement is] not necessarily a bad thing,” Hailey Cho (9), a student who plans on taking the SAT, said. “But it does take away time for students to do other activities.” 


The return of the SAT requirement also raises concerns among students who see the need to devote the time they would otherwise spend focusing on extracurriculars to attain high scores.


“Now I have to work harder to get a good score,” Claire Park (9), a student preparing for the SAT, said. “Because now, it will be harder to differentiate students if everyone has to take it.”


There has been a consistent trend of the average test score increasing as the number of test-takers increase. In one study, it revealed that around 40 percent of students at UC Berkeley scored a 31-36 on the ACT in 2014, which increased to nearly 60 percent in 2018 as a result of more students taking the ACT. As differentiating students become more difficult due to more students striving to achieve high scores, many question whether standardized testing is the best way to assess their abilities. 


“I think our society is still missing the point,” Sarah Corder, English teacher, said. “With COVID-19 we could’ve done a lot of things differently and learned from the way that we are hyper-focused on scores and get a better snapshot of students. It’s kind of a missed opportunity to find other ways to place value on things other than just numbers and look at the entire student.”

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