The Problems with the Grandfather Tests of the United States

March 21, 2019

Courtesy of College View Academy

Courtesy of College View Academy

Every year, thousands of timid high school students pull all-nighters to cram their minds with a plethora of semi-important knowledge before promptly vomiting it back up onto a scantron answer sheet. It is the vigor and intensity of high school tests that can tend to drive students to insanity, and thus leads to the vomiting mentioned above (among other types).

As a student who has experience with a good deal of these sort of tests, allow me to walk those of you (freshmen), who have yet to undergo such a process, through all of its exciting details. Two months out from test day, one might begin to think about to studying. However, one quickly begins to realize that the test is really, really far away, and thus no studying needs to be done. A month goes by. One starts to get nervous, thinking they really should start to studying. They make a schedule in their head, carefully planning out the daily tasks in order to be fully prepared. A week goes by. No big deal, they think, still three weeks to prepare. Another week, gone. A bit of panic begins to simmer beneath the surface. Yet another week later, the panic boils over. They would shove their face into a book for days on end, cramming for the inevitable failure of the test. Finally, the student would slump into test day with some knowledge, sure, but would severely lack the energy to perform at their peak. Somehow, they pass (hopefully) but they never feel good about it.

Most students are familiar with this process, but that does not make it any less real. I got lucky, and was able to get into a free ACT prep course offered by Skyline to help guide how I prepared for it. I highly recommend a course such as that, it was infinitely helpful in getting me prepared, as I most likely would not have studied otherwise. Unfortunately, there are many who go without such a luxury, and thus have no choice to bear the full weight of a massive test such as the ACT on their own. Alice B. Lloyd of the Weekly Standard argues that “true egalitarianism… would mean a test that measures more than how many prep sessions a student can (afford to) put in.”

With a test such as the ACT or SAT, the stakes truly could not be much higher, even though it largely does not test the true extent of a person’s knowledge, nor should it be a deciding factor in the admittance of students into the right university.

There are many very smart students out there who simply struggle with taking tests. Filling out bubbles in a certain amount of time is no true test of their intelligence. However, one bad score and the entire collegiate community views them as lesser, or not of the quality required for their schools. These students are, for the most part, cheated out of the school of their dreams, just because the ACT or SAT doesn’t do enough to display their strengths.

Several colleges are finally beginning to realize the fault in their ways, and are now offering test-optional admissions processes, including the prestigious University of Chicago and Utah’s own Utah Valley University. This means that students can choose whether or not they wish to submit their ACT or SAT scores, allowing the students to craft an application that shows off their strengths, instead of their weaknesses. It only makes sense.

Sure, these sort of tests have their place in the world, but that place is becoming increasingly slimmer and dated. The strain that they put on the high school student body nationwide seems to me to be very unnecessary, having gone through it myself. They simply do not cover the bases of each individual student, and until recently that idea has been all but ignored. Now that we are in the year 2019, where the qualities of each and every person should be celebrated instead of criticized, something needs to be done.

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