As a society we have come to base our view of intelligent high schoolers off of a basic pen-and-paper test. Students who receive higher scores on the SAT and the ACT are considered to be more intelligent and as a result are usually admitted to more selective schools than those who receive lower scores.
These standardized tests might be good indicators of who will do well within a school system, but they don’t necessarily predict one’s future success in life. And yet, colleges continue to give considerable weight to test scores in their admissions process. But these scores aren’t a good predictor of a student’s potential. Some students are just better test takers than others or have more preparation. Several SAT and ACT prep classes are offered from various companies and individual tutors in the area, giving affluent students a better chance to improve their scores. Some would argue that these students are buying a higher score.
Another way scores don’t accurately portray the natural capability of students is the fact that many take ADD/ADHD medication before their test. According to a study done by The Partnership for a Drug-Free America found that 1 in 10 kids of the middle and high school age were using Adderall and Ritalin without a perscription. Although it is not proven that taking these drugs will increase a student’s score, the nature of the drug is to increase alertness, concentration, and mental processing speed. For some students this is an easy alternative to preparation. Using medications that aren’t prescribed to them is a way of cheating the system.
In addition, these tests aren’t able to show some of the skills and character traits that are a key part to success. According to Bob Schaeffer of the National Center For Fair and Open Testing, creativity, perseverance, collaboration, vision and self-discipline are just a few basic qualities that are useful in the professional world that aren’t measured by these tests. A high test score tells you nothing about how a student will handle the vicissitudes of life or how well they will adapt to their surroundings. Intangibles like perseverance and adaptability aren’t tested by the SAT or the ACT. Adaptability needs to be taught by hands-on experience, much of which we don’t necessarily get in high school.
Schools are used to testing because, even though it has never been proven to indicate real world success, it is an easy way for them to predict academic success. But asking schools to stop making SAT and ACT scores a part of college admissions would be absurd because of how much they are weighted in the admission process. Also, the testing business makes a lot of money and isn’t about to let schools reevaluate whether their tests effectively predict success in life or in college.
What universities can do is weigh the students’ academic track, such as what classes they took and how difficult they were, or what extra-curricular activities the student was involved in over their standardized test scores. Without these tests colleges could focus more on the student as an individual. These things don’t necessarily predict how the student will do in college, but if the admissions would pay more attention to four years of hard work instead three hours of filling in bubbles, they might get more successful and well-rounded group of graduates.