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Student Voices: The pros and cons of standardized testing

Should standardized testing be considered in admissions decisions? This hot-button issue has become a point of discussion in many educational circles, and is certainly on my mind because I will be taking the SAT or ACT in the next year or two.

From a student’s perspective, standardized testing has pros and cons, and this has led to the formation of two main groups – those for and against standardized testing.

In my experience, most students fall into the latter of the two camps; standardized testing needs reformation, but not abolition. However, before we can look at the pros and cons of standardized testing, we must consider the purpose of testing in the first place.

The cons

Some believe that standardized testing aims to serve as an objective measure of intellect, equal for all students – supposedly, numbers don’t lie. However, this leads us to the first argument that opponents of standardized testing make, which is that tests have failed to fulfill that purpose.

Evident by the recent college admissions scandal, which demonstrated how the wealthy could gain an advantage by cheating on the test, standardized testing can be rigged against the marginalized.

It’s not only cheating that creates a disadvantage to the marginalized – students can gain the upper hand by taking classes designed specifically for the SAT or ACT that are not affordable for everyone.

This leads to the second point that opponents of testing make, which is that the test is neither an objective nor accurate display of a student’s academic ability. The argument is that more or less, test success relies on test-taking skills rather than actual knowledge.

For example, the ACT is often criticized for being an evaluation of time management skills rather than actual knowledge of the subject. If this were true, then standardized tests would not be achieving their goal of understanding a student’s academic level objectively – instead, the tests would actually be harmful to the admissions process.

The pros

Proponents of standardized testing flip this argument on its head by explaining that tests are actually important in understanding the student as a whole.

After all, if the purpose of college admissions is to understand a student holistically, it would be important to have both long-term evaluation, like GPA, and short-term evaluation, like standardized testing.

Some even say that if standardized tests were an evaluation of test-taking ability rather than knowledge, they would still be beneficial because they would objectively measure a student’s aptitude in test-taking and therefore success in college.

In addition, proponents of testing argue that standardized testing is important for efficiency’s sake – colleges would have a difficult time sorting through applications without a quick, objective measure of determining suitable applicants.

An abolishment of standardized testing would ruin the college admissions process, dragging it on longer and leaving colleges with no universalizable measure of aptitude.

The merit of standardized testing depends primarily on what a student believes the purpose of the test to be. If the test is designed to increase equality and objectivity, then it fails and must be reformed or even abolished.

However, if the goal of the test is to simply add to an application but not define it, or increase the efficiency of the admission process, then it succeeds and reform is unnecessary. We can’t say that standardized testing is definitively good or bad without understanding the other point of view.

However, regardless of whether we agree or disagree, it is important for us to develop opinions based on logic so that we can make a real and positive change in our society and our world.

Keshav Singh is a Town Crier intern and a sophomore at Bellarmine College Preparatory.

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