EYE 2 EYE : UC system going test optional

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Pro : The End of an Era?

Why University of California should cancel the SAT and ACT tests

Leonie Humig, Senior Staff Writer 

When I heard that the University of California schools might be changing their standardized test policies, I thought about the end of an era composed of a money-making scandal. 

As of 2019, the SAT reasoning test with the essay costs $64.50. The ACT with essay totals in at $68. For both, that is per test — the reality is that most students take it multiple times. As if taking the test weren’t enough, there is a fee to send scores to colleges if you surpass the limit of 4 free score sendings. The deadline to do this is very short. 

Of course, these tests are all marketed to help you get into your dream college. Behind the curtains, the “non-profit” College Board makes an annual revenue of $750 million, according to Business Insider. 

Additionally, these standardized tests have created a network of businesses dependent on themselves.  

I get emails regarding the ACT and SAT tests all the time. They bug me to retake the tests to increase my chances of getting into college. As far as the eye can see, there are tutors and courses that promise me to increase my score by a variable amount of points. A quick Google search left me with around 450 test preparation offerings — alone in Ventura County. 

And all for a hefty sum, of course. MarketWatch shows a report by IBISWorld, an industry market research company, that reveals test preparation and tutoring companies make up a $1.1billion industry. 

The terms “standardized test” and “industry” are a toxic mixture. Should your college education really be based upon how much money you spend on a test? And should how well you do on a single test, on a certain day, be a huge factor to your possible acceptance into a college?

As of now, 50 percent of the UC acceptance decisions are based upon GPA, “a-g” courses and exam scores. If the standardized tests would be taken out of this ratio, there would be room to show things that are actually meaningful and speak for yourself as a person. 

The UC system would not be the first to scratch these tests from their requirements. According to The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, 1,050 4-year colleges have eliminated the SAT and ACT tests from their requirements.

Obviously, if such a large institution as the University of California were to eliminate these tests, an industry would crash. Not only the College Board and the ACT organization but also all the surrounding dependent tutoring businesses. It is clear that if the UC system goes through with this decision, other colleges would have to follow through as well, in order to keep up with the high level of competition. There would be great opposition from the testing industry. 

Getting into college should not be a matter of money and a bland combination of numbers derived from a few boring Saturdays throughout your junior year. 


Con : More harm than good

Why University of California should not go test-optional

Mina Jung, Senior Staff Writer

When the University of California system announced they would consider a test-optional policy — meaning that students have the choice on whether or not to submit their test scores — I was at first convinced that this was a necessary step to accurately measure students’ intelligence. Groups of people have called the SAT and ACT exams discriminatory and a better predictor of a student’s background rather than college readiness. However, dive a little deeper into the college admissions process, and one can see that a test-optional policy isn’t as effective as it seems.

In the status quo, UC officials do require an SAT or ACT score, but I think we forget that during the admissions process, they don’t look at only those numbers. In fact, UC officials look at 14 other factors, such as GPA and high school quality, and sometimes even an applicant’s family income, in admissions decisions. Considering these other factors in addition to an SAT or ACT score can give colleges a better picture of a student, and in some cases, allow students who score lower on the tests to still be admitted. For example, UC San Diego admitted low-income students with average SAT scores approximately 300 points lower than high-income students in fall 2016. Admissions decisions faculty understand that the SAT and ACT aren’t perfect, but abandoning them would actually be more harmful to minority groups.

If the UC system were to go test-optional, grade inflation could increase as high school teachers feel more pressured to give more As. According to a study by the John Hopkins University Press found in 2017, high schools with the most grade inflation had an average GPA of 3.56 while high schools with less grade inflation had an average GPA of 3.14. The study noted that high-grade inflation schools were more affluent and low-grade inflation schools had fewer resources. This means that not only are students of less affluent schools put at a disadvantage, but students of affluent schools also have little to no way of discerning themselves from their peers without SAT or ACT scores.

Even if a student chose to submit a test score in the test optional policy, they would have an advantage compared to a student who didn’t submit a test score. A College Board study in 2019 of 223,000 students across 171 four-year colleges showed that grades and test scores together “provide more insight into a student’s potential than either measure alone.” Students who submit test scores are generally of higher socioeconomic status, and isn’t the whole point of going test-optional to give disadvantaged groups an equal chance?

The whole point of the SAT and ACT is to measure students’ intelligence and preparedness for college, and multiple studies have shown that these tests are the most accurate in doing so. According to the American Educational Research Association, the SAT is a reliable predictor of future college success, even when taking socioeconomic background and disparities due to race into consideration. Additionally, the SAT and ACT have the most predictive power compared to alternate methods, according to John Hopkins University Press.

We should keep the college admissions process as it is. Requiring the SAT and ACT is still the most effective way to measure a student’s capability for college success, and the argument that these tests are discriminatory is accounted for both in measuring the SAT and ACT’s predictive power and in admissions decisions. 

If the UC system goes test-optional, the entire nation will likely follow because of California’s “sheer size and influence as the nation’s premier public research university,” according to Los Angeles Times. Discriminated students nationwide will then be more at a disadvantage, going against the whole point of becoming test-optional.