Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, over 400 universities and schools have either abandoned or delayed it or made program-specific, the standardized tests as the students are unable to reach out to the test centres.
While the universities/colleges were announcing the test-optional systems, there was unrest among the students, as is evident from one of the students named Julia Peldunas who missed her first SAT attempt at the beginning of March, then again during the end of that month and eventually the June’s attempt too. In fact, according to the College Board, around a million students like Peldunas were noticed to face cancellation of their exam schedules.
During the summer, more colleges like UPenn, Virginia, Cornell continued cancellation of the tests. Peldunas, who opted for the SAT exam on the August 29 saw the respective test centre closing and cancelling the 3 hours exam. In fact, the U.S. witnessed numerous testing sites either cancelling or reducing the intake of students resulting in around 400,000 students’ inability to take the exam.
The striking part is, all these actions didn’t stop Peldunas from taking the SAT as she again registered for the September’s SAT. when asked she replied “The SAT is a rite of passage that’s been ripped away,” she told continued “I’ve been preparing for years.” this states how the students and their families both grind for the test. Even before the coronavirus, around 1,000 schools made the SAT/ACT optional with the count rising since then. Simultaneously, there has been a rise in the student count of taking the exam:
- The 2015 batch of high-school students, 1.9 million candidates took the ACT and 1.7 took the SAT;
- In 2018, 1.8 million took the ACT, and 2.2 million took the SAT
Adam Ingersoll, a co-founder and principal of Compass Education Group stated how the notion of optional tests simply means nothing to the privileged kids. If they find in their local areas that others are taking a test, they will, by every mean get themselves a score.
Students have always had a tendency to focus more on test scores, whereas schools put focuses on many more criteria like transcripts, essays, recommendations and the more discriminatory the institution, the more dull the process. Chicago, in 2018, became the most highest-ranked and distinguished university to launch a test-optional option. But the statement says that only 15 to 20 per cent of students take advantage of this test-optional system.
During the pandemic, the decision regarding the test-requirements is distinctive in each group of students and their families. While some is asking the standardized tests to be discarded completely as their scores are unnecessary. On the other hand, taking the standardized test scores are directly related to the family’s income as is evident from the age-old wisdom.
Certain admission professionals are questioning the need for standardized test scores and stating how the grades itself suffices as a performance metric. But a few of the researches from universities show how the combination of these two is considered the most suitable metric.
In this regard, Worcester Polytechnic Institute has stated how they want their students to have a command on how they are assessed. For a few students, scoring high in these standardized tests are considered helpful for boosting their applications.
There has either been a similarity in both standardized test scores and grades, or a huge difference. Female applicants, especially black and Latino have higher GPAs but low test scores, whereas males coming from families earning higher than $1,00,000 yearly with parents having graduated degrees have high test scores but low GPAs. High scores in standardized tests too, doesn’t guarantee admission in the top universities as they don’t solely depend on the academic scores.
Journalist Nicholas Lemann in his book ‘The Big Test’ stated how the conducting body of SAT launched it in 1926 to examine the mental aptitude of a candidate instead of it becoming such a crucial performance indicator as it has become today. SAT was used by renowned universities to filter students who didn’t go to eastern boarding schools. But the latter half of the 20th century saw a huge increase in the count of college applicants which then considered SAT and ACT as a strict accomplishment metric.
The COVID-19 outbreak has posed a great threat to the SAT and ACT exams with its cancellation and universities making test-optional admissions. The unrest is even more intense because of the alignment of the racial inequality protests which has impacted the standardized tests too.
The University of California, which thought of eliminating the test scores from the 2023 - 24 has been instructor by a judge who has prohibited accepting test scores at all. But this is going to affect the out-of-state colleges too, as California is the home of exams. If UC prohibits standardized test scores, all the remaining ones will.
The average scores of the standardized tests are to be studied as the range of scores set a distinction for the college-search industry. Once a range of average scores is created, it sets a benchmark for counsellors, students and families.