It’s an increasingly popular move in higher education. Hundreds of schools no longer require student applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores.
In July, George Washington University became the latest school to throw its considerable weight behind the test-optional movement. Its explanation:
“The test-optional policy should strengthen and diversify an already outstanding applicant pool and will broaden access for those high-achieving students who have historically been underrepresented at selective colleges and universities, including students of color, first-generation students and students from low-income households,” said Laurie Koehler, who leads enrollment efforts at George Washington.
In a word: diversity.
Quite true. Schools at the university level have been lowering the bar gradually for a few decades now. The result? We’re now “graduating” bachelor’s degree-holders who can barely read their diplomae–just like was the case with HS grads starting in the 1960’s…and they ALL seem to be coming out of school expecting a starting salary in the six-figure range!
The tests are ridiculous and mean nothing with respect to college performance. The purpose of this testing is to make it easier for lazy administrators to go through applications. These pointless tests should be replaced with letters of recommendation, writing samples, etc.
Yet, students with poor SATs or ACTs but who are admitted on some stupid idea that blacks or Hispanics are treated “unfairly” by those tests, RARELY–if ever–manage to do college-level work and drop out, all the while robbing some deserving student who CAN achieve in college the opportunity to do so.
Putting aside, as one really shouldn’t, the subtle racism of Pappadave’s post, standardized tests measure only one thing: how good a student is at taking standardized tests. This includes tests like the GRE, which every PhD admissions board knows is almost complete rubbish. For my GRE exam, I only studied multiple choice test taking strategies, because I knew that the GRE only matters if you do either very poorly or ridiculously well. So I did just good enough on the GRE for it not to matter (while relying on my letters and writing sample to carry the day, which they did).
So, who should one expect to be good on standardized tests? The children of those who are already highly educated and who therefore know the game. Who will most likely do poorly (regardless of actual academic ability)? First generation college students, or students from lower educational families in general. Here’s the dirty secret of academia: by and large, the people who are successful come from highly educated backgrounds. Not because they’re genetically more intelligent, and certainly not because they work harder, but because their parents already understand the game, and know how to help their children navigate through its bullshit. Standardized tests are one example of these pointless hoops that you have to jump through to gain the privilege of an advanced degree. They measure precisely zero of the skills necessary to get a PhD in any field.
Disclaimer: before the inevitable post of “my dad was a ditch digger and I gotta friggin’ PhD from Harvard in mathematical physics!!!” please note the “by and large” qualifier.
I’ve mentioned before that I have seen students having to take remedial English in college after taking one of their tests. For some reason, they didn’t require the tests before acceptance when I went to Penn State, but a battery of tests was part of the Freshman orientation. Probably, because in those days, only serious students applied for college entrance.
I’d hate to see what some of today’s students would do on the English test. They probably automatically go to a seventh or eighth grade level English class in the freshman year, to prevent such occurrences.
As a very poor student in school due to dyslexia (severe) which compounded itself into other problems, mostly being beaten by teachers, called lazy and a host of issues. A few teachers knew something was not right as they noticed on math and english that the letters/numbers were there and correct, but not in the correct order. Then a few asked if I thought I could do and oral test. I gave it a shot and wow, did I impress the teachers. But at that time rare was there an oral test. Time went by and when my dad asked me what was I going to do now when he picked me up at the airport from Vietnam. I said, dad, what I know is that laying in a rice paddy getting you butt shot is not a career move, I need an education.
College profs like someone who wanted an oral exam as it was one less paper to grade. Suddenly I find myself on the Dean’s list and grad with honors. Then I found out that life is far more based upon your ability to speak than to write.
Point: Unless the tests are T/F or multiple choice I never did well on them. Oddly enough over the years I became a excellent writer, things like spell check were a godsend and grammar checkers clean up the rest. Up until recently I had columns in several papers, but as age has crept up so has the dyslexia so I have given it up. The SAT/ACT etc tests are not a predictor of anything other than you took the test and scored ‘x’ on it. I took the tests and my HS SAT/ACT person called me in and had this look of amazement on their face when they told me how well I had done and of course the same post comment…why do you do so bad in school? Always telling me had I “buckled down” I would have been a star student…no one knew about dyslexia back in those days and I often wonder how many people over the years have been beat into submission by teachers and ended up in life struggling, lack of self confidence and not reaching for the brass ring because they thought they would fail.
I had a cousin who did poorly in school. He never really learned to read. My one sister has speculated that he was dyslexic. He did very well in his own business, though. He was talking about it once at a family get-together, and was bragging about how he didn’t need an education; he did just fine without it. Had I been on the ball, I would have said, “Bill, you do have an education. It’s just not out of school, and out of books.” Obviously, he had acquired a great deal of knowledge about his business applications.
I would never say I overcame it, but when finally understood what I did (transposing of numbers/letters/words) I was able to mitigate it and look for it. I have 3 degrees, I am (now retired) a software/hardware/network engineer, have started 4 successful companies. I work hard, I financed them myself out of my own pocket and managed to build a decent life for myself and my family. It was not easy, but here I am…