Anderson: The test-optional policy is the best option

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Taylor Wypyski

With many schools going test-optional, students don’t have to worry about test scores as they had previously.

Hayden Anderson, Student Life Editor

Standardized testing has been an issue for years. From expensive test preparation to the debate about whether standardized tests actually determine knowledge, many standardized tests such as the ACT or AP subject tests torment students every year; however, this year, many students have not had the chance to take standardized tests as a result of COVID-19 concerns. As a result, most colleges in the U.S. moved towards a test-optional policy. While this policy has its drawbacks and concerns, the positives outweigh them, and research shows that this needs to be something that stays for years to come.

Going test-optional isn’t a new proposition; it’s been tested for years. One of the first instances of research on the subject occurred at the University of California in 2001. Through research, the study’s conductors found that grades were a better indicator of knowledge than standardized tests were. Instead of fixing the problem, the College Board, creator of the SAT, decided to lengthen the SAT and take out the previous word analogies section. This revised SAT has been referred to now as the new SAT.

As years passed, test-optional policies became a new normal. The wave of this policy started at the University of Chicago in 2018. This was a project through this university to “increase accessibility for first-generation, low-income students.” The goal of this initiative was to promote that this wasn’t the only part of students’ applications and that test scores don’t define the applicant.

Though these are just two examples of standardized testing research, it does not take research to see that there are problems with standardized testing. Many of these problems include the capitalist nature of the companies that run the tests. For instance, to study for a standardized test, you have to pay money for a book and other study materials in addition to paying for the test itself. 

When colleges want to implement a test-optional policy, they have three main choices on how to do so. First, the college could offer test-optional to some students; this is usually allowed for students that have a minimum GPA set by the school. The second option is to offer the test-optional policy to all applicants. Finally, colleges can instate a test-optional policy only for admissions but require scores for scholarships. Currently, most schools are implementing this option due to a rise in scholarship competitiveness over the years. 

There are a few disadvantages of test-optional policies frequently brought up. First, a common argument is that colleges are rejecting more students each year with this policy. While this is true, people do not take into account the amount of people that are applying with this new policy, so it is proportional to the typical amount of students applying. Another relates to the high number of people applying. Though this does put applicants at a disadvantage, it allows for a fairer opportunity for everyone — the more ethical and equitable option.

The advantages of going test-optional far outweigh the disadvantages. Through this option, colleges have seen many new benefits for their schools. Increases in diversity have been reported in schools such as Wake Forest. Several colleges received higher rankings after implementing test-optional policies because they had a more diverse applicant pool. This also increases the application equity. Since students who buy more materials usually do better on the test, many low-income families don’t have equal opportunities to improve.

Overall, this test-optional policy has been a work in progress for years through research studies, but it has turned out to be a great success. I hope that colleges will start to look into keeping their test-optional policies so we can have an equitable application system for all.