“I will give an announcement of time remaining on each test to serve as a warning before time is called. It is to your advantage to answer every question. Are there any questions?”
Fifteen minutes left. But you’re not even halfway done.Do you fill in random bubbles? Or do you think through as many as you can with the time you have left?
The nervous tic of no. 2 pencils hitting the desk or feet bobbing up and down is inevitable. This is the ACT after all.
Whichever you choose, and however prepared you are for it, this test can make or break your future.
But it shouldn’t.
Standardized testing has been dreaded by high school students ever since they became a college entry requirement. People spend thousands of dollars on tutors, hours spent crying over their ACT prep books and a lifetime’s worth of regret if they don’t get their sense of a perfect score.
In the end, it’s just a number.
The ACT and SAT are time-based tests that supposedly quantify your knowledge and determine your potential for success in the future — how much scholarship money you will get from a school, if you will even get accepted in the first place — but for what? A two-digit number? We give that number too much power.
The problem with the ACT and SAT is not the tests themselves — the problem lies within the imbalance in expenses students’ parents are willing or able to spend on a tutor or preparation class, and resultantly how much consideration colleges take in them.
And for students whose parents can’t pay this high cost, typically ranging from $35-$250 per hour, they have nothing but hope and their own problem solving skills to coincide with a high enough score to get in or pay for their college tuition. Alternatively, there are prep books and free online practice tests, yet these will never compare to having a real person be there to answer questions and give specific insight based on your particular knowledge and thought process.
Sure, most schools provide ACT/SAT preparation classes for students whose parents can’t or won’t pay the high price a tutor or outside program costs — but these classes don’t add up to one-on-one help with the specific sections individual test-takers struggle with.
Aside from individual intelligence, students whose parents pay for a tutor or class are taught tips like going with the simplest answers on the English section, and reading the questions before the passage on the reading section to perform better in one or all areas of the test. According to Get Smarter Prep, students’ scores will typically raise one to four points with the help of a tutor or instructor.
Some students just get lucky and naturally have advanced test-taking and problem solving skills. But the others who can’t afford a costly tutor or class are left in the dark.
Luckily for students still going through the process, on Oct. 10, the ACT changed their policy on retakes. Starting next September, students will be able to retake individual portions of the ACT. Hopefully this revision of this high-stakes exam will move the idea of standardized testing one step closer to feasibility for all students, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds and opportunities.
Instead of colleges focusing on ACT and SAT scores, they should be focusing on our skills outside of the testing room: essays showing accomplishments, personal stories detailing the greatest hardship that a student has overcome, clubs they have participated in or things they are proud of.
Writing about topics that matter to the student is much more telling to one’s character than how well they performed on the Science portion of the ACT.
Schools should dedicate their attention to students’ character and qualities rather than their test scores. Focusing on a student’s GPA, or a cumulative progression of how well they perform over the course of four years, is much more valid than judging a students’ knowledge based on a four-hour test and some pricey tutoring sessions.
Colleges such as NYU, Cornell and Arizona State are now test-optional colleges, meaning they don’t require an SAT or ACT score. Every college should consider following after these schools that base their entries and scholarship grants off of a wide scale of accomplishments and high-performances, rather than a test with unjust odds.
We’re worth more than a score of 1-36 or 200-1600, and it’s time for colleges to recognize that.