Dropping SAT, ACT requirements amid a pandemic benefits those with test anxiety, socioeconomic challenges

Removal of standardized testing requirements for class of 2021 should serve as precedent for future

By Saanvi Thakur

When entering high school, most students have a checklist to complete before graduating: subject tests, AP tests and most importantly, the SAT or ACT. These tasks are all top priorities for students, and for good reason. 

Illustration by Saanvi Thakur
The SAT and ACT discriminates against those with economic disadvantages and needs to be removed as a requirement for college admissions.

SAT and ACT scores count as one of the mandatory factors a majority of U.S. colleges and universities require for admission.

As students wait for SAT/ACT result emails from the College Board that could either make or break their academic fate, others pay thousands of dollars to get the best SAT and ACT prep.

As this test-taking disparity continues, studies are being released on why standardized testing is biased and unreliable. 

Twenty percent of students deal with test anxiety while another 18 percent may have a moderate form of this condition, according to the Washington Post. This pre-test nervousness students feel turns into feelings of worry, dread and fear, which can impair learning and hurt test performance, according to Oxford Learning

The SAT and ACT are the biggest tests students take during their high school career, and many prepare for these tests months in advance. The pressure to perform well — combined with the fact that so many students deal with test anxiety — is just one of the reasons the SAT and ACT can be considered discriminatory.  

 “The pressure comes from everywhere,” Lisa Sohmer, the director of college counseling for the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, said in an interview. “Students a few years ago talked about doing test prep starting in the 11th grade. Starting in the 10th grade. Now, people are talking about having prep courses for students in the 9th grade.” 

Test anxiety is just one of the disadvantages students face when taking the SAT and ACT. 

A study from the National Association for College Admission Counseling revealed that enforcing test-optional policies, which are policies that do not require students to submit their scores and instead place more emphasis on other factors in the admission process, can help colleges improve their diversity without compromising academic standards. 

As students wait for SAT/ACT result emails from the College Board that could either make or break their academic fate, others pay thousands of dollars to get the best SAT and ACT prep. As this test-taking disparity continues, studies are being released on why standardized testing is biased and unreliable.”

The study also provides evidence that schools that do not require the SAT or ACT receive more applications from students of color. In addition, deans of colleges made remarks on this policy, stating: “we are seeing lots of kids who have done everything right except have high tests.”

These deans also note that dropping the testing requirement has “absolutely worked” as not only has first year academic performance improved, so has student retention. Another improvement is a steady increase in ethnic diversity. 

According to CNBC, wealthy students earn higher SAT scores compared to their low-income peers and the difference in SAT scores between high and low income students was twice as large among black students compared to white students.

As more studies are being released, it has become evident there is a big disadvantage for students of color taking the SAT/ACT. 

Removing the requirement of submitting SAT or ACT scores will not only enhance diversity on campuses but will also allow all students, regardless of their background, to have a fair chance when applying to colleges.

There are also students who face a big economic disadvantage because of the high SAT/ACT prep costs. The College Board did respond to this problem by partnering with Khan Academy to provide free online SAT/ACT prep, but this still requires internet access at home, which many students do not have. 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities have become test-optional for the class of 2021, due to the closure of many test-taking centers as well as the changes that are occuring in AP classes. 

Fifty-one universities and colleges have dropped the SAT and ACT requirement for the class of 2021, according to CNN. While this action helps and supports this particular class, it leaves other classes with a disadvantage. 

This movement of removing the SAT and ACT requirement should apply to all students starting going forward. Removing the testing requirement for the class of 2021 should serve as a precedent for other classes in the future, as removing this requirement for one class is unfair, only providing another obstacle for people with economic disadvantages. 

 If this change is made in our school systems, it will allow for all students to have a fair chance at a future that may have been taken away just because of one bad test score.

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