Much has been written about the diminished value colleges place on standardized tests such as the SAT and the ACT. fairtest.org is an organization whose mission is to “end the misuses and flaws of standardized tests” and remove these tests from the college application mix. Fairtest, based in Cambridge, Mass., places special emphasis on eliminating the racial, class, gender, and cultural barriers posed by standardized tests by listing the nearly 1000 colleges and universities that do not use SAT or ACT scores to admit students to Bachelor programs, including the 300+ ‘Top-Tier’ schools that are test-optional.
There are more and more colleges that consider themselves “test-optional” – which means that students may submit their test scores but will not be penalized if they choose not to submit them. You’ll find a list of test-optional colleges at http:// www.fairtest.org/univ/optional.htm.
Wake Forest, one of a few top 30 national universities with a test-optional policy, made splashy headlines when it decided to join this group. Wake Forest defended its decision by saying that test scores are not an effective way to measure anticipated success in college.
The pro-testing side, led by testing organizations and test prep services, promotes the standardized tests as the only fair way to compare students from different schools in different states with wildly different curricula. While the SAT and ACT standardized tests can provide a valuable benchmark of academic performance, there is no question that the scores can be affected by preparation.
Students can be taught strategies to enhance their scores. Test prep favors the well-heeled and the well-prepared. In our era of political correctness, this one fact has been the call to action for many to join the anti-standardized test movement.
How important are the tests in the decision-making process? It definitely varies from college to college, but according to some admission officials, the tests are “not nearly as important as students or parents believe.”
Students and parents will hear this at college information sessions, particularly at many smaller and/or private colleges. Nevertheless, there is no question that there are colleges that rely heavily on these standardized tests. When the test scores are in sync with a student’s grade point average, many large colleges feel that they have sufficient information to make a decision based on this objective criteria.
However, when a college offers students an opportunity to write one or more supplementary essays, places a high value on teacher recommendations, interviews candidates, and requests submission of samples of their artwork, the importance of test scores slides down a notch or two.
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