Thankachan: Gone with the ACT


Victoria Gong

Mariat Thankachan offers her veteran perspective on the ACT.

Mariat Thankachan, Co-Editor in Chief

This month will mark my seventh time sitting in front of the dreaded slice of a booklet marked with the color of ACT. It will be my seventh time trekking against chilly winds in the winter or blooming dandelions in the spring to test centers across Mississippi. It will be my seventh time sharpening my three lucky #2 pencils for that extra bit of good fortune and replacing calculator batteries in fear of it dying in the middle of my math test. Hopefully, it will be my last time listening to the routine instructions that the room proctor reads of everything I cannot do between now and the time I am finally freed of this Saturday morning burden, as if I haven’t already taken the ACT too many times before.  

Some individuals argue that standardized tests like the ACT are practical ways to offset grade inflation since they offer consistent comparison of student knowledge and aptitude. Other supporters also believe that standardized tests are objective assessments, completely unbiased since the data is compiled and scores are determined by machines. Are they really all that effective, though? Let me break this down a bit.

The ACT is not as fair as it claims to be all over its website or the news. We all know that everyone is different; this means that not everyone is rich enough to afford the various aspects of taking such assessments; the economics of the underprivileged are not considered when vouching for the glory of standardized tests. As you casually sit down to take this test like every other time, sometimes you forget to be grateful for the resources you were provided with. The students who are economically disadvantaged have no means to spend hundreds of dollars on prep books, personal tutors, or other forms of study material; let’s admit it, these resources do come in handy when trying to get ready for the fight.

It costs between $45 and $60 each time to partake in these tests. Sometimes your score will not be the one you aimed for, so you will want to take it multiple times, like me, in an attempt to shoot your arrow closer to the target: get scholarships for a good college (‘cause that’s kinda important, ya know). Sometimes your score will only inch forward one point; imagine that, paying 60 valuable American bucks for a digit to improve by one. You also have to make sure you sign up for the ACT with writing, which is more expensive, because competitive colleges are only attracted to that test for unreasonable reasons. Oh, and it costs $12 each time in order to send an official ACT score report to colleges. All of these expenses can add up to a breathtaking amount that a normal high school student worries to pay, along with extraneous fees to actually apply to colleges (and buy food to survive).

An indisputable fact is that different schools have unique curriculum, some are detailed and challenging while others are lazy and ineffectual. A child could be incredibly intelligent with extraordinary talents but was never exposed to the concepts of complex Geometry in high school. This means that the student’s ACT math sub-score and thus the composite score will suffer from the apparent weakness in background education despite the fact that the student is capable of comprehending such academic lessons.

Because an exceptional amount of pressure is placed on the ACT, the stress causes students to snap and then break. There is cause to hold the belief that if you do not score a perfect value on the ACT, you are a failure that will not be of interest to colleges and you are not intelligent enough to get money to attend a respected institution; no one will be fighting to capture your attention or working to impress you with spirited paraphernalia. Test anxiety is a real thing, folks. When you are too busy analyzing your fate based on the consequences of not wanting to read another boring article and conclude the author’s purpose of writing it, sometimes you forget how to breathe. Arms uncontrollably shake and letters seem blurry in the middle of the test, the time ticks and you just lost your chance at a perfect score.

That leads to another thought as I vent about the ACT: time. There is just not enough time; I guess it is the manner in which “they” measure my quick-thinking abilities. Just saying, but anyone could score a great number if a tiny bit more minutes were awarded. Can I get more time so that I can actually read all of the questions and prove my intellect since that is what is supposed to be measured with this test?

The ACT is not a measure of hard work or dedication to passions. Comparisons are made in life based on a measly number. What if I am an artist that aims to inspire? What if I am a leader that works to form impactful teams? What if I am a tireless servant for the community? Am I considered less worthy than the kid with a 36? It sure seems that way. Everyone has skills and talents that cannot be calculated with the scores resulting from grammar fixing and graph reading on the ACT.

Colleges that are counting on the scores from standardized tests are putting themselves at a great disadvantage. Not only does eliminating applicants based on their test results leave colleges with a small pool of prospective students, but it also gets rid of talented applicants that hold the potential to be of great asset to the university. There are schools transferring to test-blind methods of selection, and they are the future of college admissions. Standardized testing is outdated and does not accurately gauge the influence a student could have as a new addition to a college.

It does not matter that my score increases most times when I take the ACT or that my number is higher than many others; I am not ashamed to say that it is not that perfect 36. I am not criticizing the methods of standardized testing because of my score. The world would just benefit by realizing that a student’s worth and potential lies in more than a two-digit piece of ink.