Arguments Against Standardized Tests in College Admissions

Topic: Academic Performance
Words: 1392 Pages: 5


Every student in high school dreams of joining a good college to advance their studies. For many decades, colleges have relied on standardized for student selection. Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and American College Test (ACT) are the two main tests used to assess students’ preparedness and qualification for college. While the ACT tests a student’s knowledge of concepts studied in high school, the ACT evaluates their preparedness by testing on concepts new to the student. Recently there has been a debate over the relevance of standardized tests, with many colleges adopting test-optional strategies. Standardized tests should not be used for college admissions because they kill creativity, limit diversity, provide no meaningful metric for improvement, and high school performance does not directly influence college performance. They also lead to inequality and do not contribute to improved student performance over the years.

Arguments against SAT and ACT

First Body

Standardized tests have been criticized for killing creativity in students. “Standardized Testing in College Admissions: Observations and Reflections” by Li Cai outlines some of the issues that have contributed to the debate on standardized tests abolishment in college admissions and the potential changes. Cai feels that standardized tests measure a “far narrower piece of achievement and potential than covered by K-12 students” (36). This point shows that students focus on only one area: mastery of course content. This limits their ability to develop in other areas that would demonstrate creativity.

This point is echoed in “In Defense of Standardized Tests in College Admissions” by Ake-Little, who agrees that standardized tests have played an outsized role in influencing college admissions. According to Ake-Little, “standardized testing routinely disqualifies otherwise capable disadvantaged students from the admission process” This confirms that standardized tests have been over-valued, leading to limited creativity among students. These tests have only assessed the students’ abilities to take standardized tests and cram course contents. Such activities leave no room for creativity and innovation, which are crucial in the technological era.

Second Body

Standardized tests limit diversity in colleges by limiting the admission of students from diverse backgrounds and capabilities. The ACT and SATs can be difficult for ESL students since they rely primarily on written English. The article “Introduction to Special Section: The Validity of Using College Admission Tests as Indicators of High School Accountability” by Howard T. Everson records that standardized scores have created a controversy by going beyond their original intent. This shows that the tests have wrongfully inhibited students’ admissions, and abolishing them will allow non-Americans an equal chance of attending American colleges.

Socioeconomic diversity has also been limited since disadvantaged students from needy families often lack the preparation for these tests, consequently missing college (Ake-Little). Adopting other evaluation tests other than SAT and ACT will reduce the gap between rich, native English speakers and foreigners. The American education system needs to accommodate students from all regions and capabilities. As the world changes its outlook on education, diversity is a major factor to consider.

Third Body

Standardized tests do not provide a meaningful measure of improvement. Learning is a continuous process in which students gain new insights and improve on previously difficult areas. SAT and ACT measure how well a student remembers what they learned but does not measure how they have progressed in their knowledge acquisition. Cai shows that standardized test scores “have questionable validity and do not assess the knowledge and skills they were intended to.”

The value of education is positively changing students’ perception and knowledge levels, a concept that is ignored by the standardized tests currently in use. Everson confirms Cai’s view by arguing that standardized tests lack a convincing validity argument in regard to students’ performance evaluation (9). They do not show a student whether they can now understand what they couldn’t grasp the previous semester. The fact that a student can easily pass a standardized test does not mean they can improve on their past scores.

Fourth Body

Standardized tests are irrelevant because high school performance does not necessarily determine college performance. A college education is significantly different from high school, where students learn already established concepts. In college, students are expected to research and use their creativity to develop new innovations. Using standardized tests to evaluate a student’s qualification for college does not serve the intended purpose.

According to Cai, standardized tests fail to “predict first-year grades at either the undergraduate or graduate level” (35). This point is additional proof that college excellence does not depend on high school performance. In line with this point, Ake-Little argues that the inability of standardized tests to predict college performance lies with the “inconsistent and subjective grading criteria” in high schools. Focusing on Cai and Ake-Little’s points, ACT and SAT have only blocked some students from college, yet they would have probably performed better than those admitted. Therefore if performance in college is to be considered, standardized tests should be abolished.

Fifth Body

Standardized tests lead to inequality and increase the gap between the rich and the poor. According to Everson, there is a need to address the “broader issues related to consequences of using admissions tests as an achievement indicator in high school accountability systems” (9). Although learning institutions are expected to promote fairness and equality, only a few students are able to take the tests. In critiquing the test-optional admissions, Ake-little argues that the move does not imply “equality after admission.”Ake-little’s point reveals that the search for equality is one of the broad issues mentioned by Everson, necessitating the abolishment of standardized tests. In essence, standardized tests have failed to facilitate equality and fairness, creating a wide gap between students from wealthy families and the poor.

Sixth Body

Standardized tests for college admission have not contributed to improved academic performance. Despite a greater emphasis on standardized testing, international rankings demonstrate that the United States has made no significant progress in terms of academic performance, raising concerns over its practicability (Everson 9). This point shows that since the tests have failed to serve the purpose for which they were designed, they should be abolished. Overdependence on standardized test scores has hampered institutions’ ability to assist students in succeeding and achieving in a variety of other areas. For instance, students with entrepreneurial skills have not been helped by the SAT and ACT tests.

In most cases, native English speakers have passed the tests but failed to excel in the scientific courses at college. The lack of improvement in academic performance is the main factor driving the shift to test-optional college admissions, as shown by Cai (36). Institutions of higher learning should focus on wholesome students’ development by encouraging creativity and innovation, which will lead to academic improvement. Therefore, as colleges pursue excellence, they should abolish standardized tests to ensure they can compete on a global scale and remain relevant in the technologically advancing educational system.


In conclusion, standardized tests, mainly ACT and SAT, have been used for many years to assess students’ readiness for college education. The test is primarily conducted in English, making it difficult for ESL students to pass. Over the years, students have struggled to pass the tests, with brilliant students missing the mark for failing a test that does not necessarily assess their skills and intelligence. Due to the high school grades’ inflation, many scholars have questioned the validity of SAT and ACT test scores, leading to a debate about their abolishment. Many colleges have now adopted the test-optional criteria to limit the drawbacks associated with standardized tests. However, some leaders in the educational sector fear the implications of abolishing SAT and ACT tests since they have been in use for decades.

Standardized scores should be abolished because they have failed to fulfill their role of preparing students for excellent college performance. They have killed creativity and diversity in colleges by admitting students who only studied to pass the tests without any inclination towards personal development through creativity. The tests provide no meaningful metric for improvement since they only assess how well a student can remember certain things as opposed to their progress over time. In addition, ACT and SAT are invalid because high school performance does not directly influence college performance. College education requires creative thinking and innovation, which are not considered in the standardized tests. Lastly, they encourage cheating and do not contribute to improved student performance over the years.

Works Cited

Ake-Little, Ethan S. “In Defense of Standardized Testing In College Admissions”. The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 65, no. 22. 2019, p. A44. Education Source. Web.

Cai, Li. “Standardized Testing in College Admissions: Observations And Reflections.” Educational measurement, vol. 39, no. 3, 2020, p. 34-36, Education source. Web.

Everson, Howard T. “Introduction To Special Section: The Validity Of Using College Admission Tests As Indicators Of High School Accountability.” Educational Measurement, vol. 38, no. 4, 2019, p. 9, Education Source. Web.

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