Why We Need College Entrance Exams

Why We Need College Entrance Exams

All Ohio eleventh graders have been required to take a state mandated ACT or SAT to graduate since 2017. These college entrance exams have been contentious for years, with many advocating that they are outdated and are not a useful metric for college admission. 

While a college entrance exam is certainly a source of stress for many, new research indicates universal testing policies are beneficial for otherwise underprivileged students. These tests allow for students to shine and show their skills despite socio economic status.

Below we will be diving into why we need college entrance exams and the specific benefits they bring to college admissions. 

Holistic College Admissions

In recent years, there has been a shift toward using a more holistic view of a student’s readiness for college. The idea is that if college admissions looks at a student’s entire being, they can get more relevant information than if they over emphasize a number from a test.

The common benchmarks used in these assessments include GPA, class rank, extra curricular school activities, and community service. On the surface, these look like beneficial ways of leveling the playing field, but they can actually have the opposite effect.

Students who come from a background of poverty have less time to and money to spend on after school activities and community service. These students might not have reliable transportation to get them to and from their activities.

GPA might seem more fair, since students can get good grades without spending a ton of money. The problem is that GPA is seen differently at different schools. 

Students who have a 4.0 at an impoverished school are viewed in a lower light than those who achieve it at a prestigious private school. The justification given from college admissions offices is that obtaining a 4.0 is not standardized, and some schools have more difficult programs than others.

This is where standardized tests come in. The test is just that, it’s standardized. Colleges have been proven to forgo bias when using an SAT or ACT, as they know the test will be exactly the same no matter where it was given.

College Entrance Exams Predicate Success

Time and time again, studies have backed the idea that the ACT and SAT predict a student’s success in both college and in their careers afterwards. Students with the highest test scores are consistently performing the best throughout college with the lowest drop-out rates. These same students also end up in the highest paying positions post-graduation.

Many states, including Ohio, require the use of an ACT or SAT to graduate high school. As such, the ability to take the test is not based on resources, as all students have access to the same test. It is truly a standardized metric with valuable information.

The Problem With Test Optional Policies

For those who don’t know, a “test-optional” policy allows students to submit their test score if they want to, but it is not required by the admissions office of a college. This policy has become quite common in recent years.

Now that we know college entrance exams predicate success and promote diversity, why are schools still using a test-optional submission policy?

The first reason is because of the global 2020 pandemic. Students were being quarantined during this time and since there was no online test, having to travel to an in-person testing center would have created a lot of difficulty and risk. Many schools opted for test-optional policies and have kept them in place.

The other big reason is that people don’t like taking these standardized tests. Despite all the fairness they bring over alternative options, the tests themselves are hard and require some effort to do well on. There is a lot of public support for test-optional policies.

The big problem with test-optional admissions is that it has greatly reduced diverse admissions from poor backgrounds and minorities. 

A clear pattern has emerged with the rise of test-optional policies. Students from a wealthy background will opt into the test while those from lower-income backgrounds will opt out.

A recent study based on public admissions information has demonstrated that students who submit their test score are more likely to be admitted to the same school than those who do not submit a score. This hurts diversity because students who are least able to afford test preparation (or the test itself) are the least likely to submit their score.

Concluding Thoughts

While the ACT and SAT are not a perfect metric, they have been proven superior to their alternative options. These college entrance exams show colleges who are most likely to succeed in their programs and allow students from a lower-income background a chance to shine in higher education.

For more information on the steps to get into college, check out our college admission timeline.
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