A Critical Research on The Effectiveness of College Acceptance Exams

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9008 words

Downloads: 66

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Imagine being in a world where a single test is set up to determine your knowledge and future success, you already do and that’s exactly what the SAT and ACT have been doing for students. There is too much trust being put into these tests when it’s time to make a college decision. My main question while doing this case study was “Why?”. Why are we trusting a test so much, why is it still being used after decades of being proven wrong, why can one score determine how my future will be determined. The tests are just a shortcut for admission officers, so they don’t have to look at everything that a student has to submit. Since there has been so much trust being put into these exams, major factors have been ignored like: racism, advantages, money, anxiety, and all of those things are just on a personal level of any student. Grade point average (GPA), extracurricular activities, and even the classes that you may have taken in high school get overlooked because of one single test. College acceptance exams should not be required and used to determine a student’s intelligence and work ethic because they cannot accurately predict college success.

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Around the beginning of the 20th century, the SAT was made by the College Entrance Examination. The College Entrance Examination later became the College Board and when they first made the SAT they called it the “College Boards”. Before the SAT was created colleges didn’t use a test for admission and relied on essays from the upcoming students to make an admission decision. The SAT was also seen as an IQ test for the army and it didn’t take long to finish. Even though it was an IQ test at first, later in 1926 students took it for the first time. After World War II the test became a lot more famous especially because of the GI bill which let veterans who came from the war, go to college without paying tuition, the bill also brought the test to many more colleges, so they could begin using it. The SAT has also been worked on many times to be improved and the first change happened only two years after being taken for the first time, in 19281. Other changes to the test came in the “1930s, 1940s, 1990s, early 2000s, 2008, and 2012” 1. Every time this was changed there would be sections taken away or added and also a change in the scoring. The old SAT, made students lose ¼ of a point on incorrect answers but now, guessed and wrong answers no longer take anything away. There were also new changes made in 20161 which tried to help cover things that students went over in school. The College Board were the creators of the tests and to this day they still administer them. There has been a change in their powers and now it is scored by the Educational Testing Service.

The ACT was made in 19591 by a professor at the University of Iowa named Everett Franklin Lindquist. There was a change in college attendance in the US and more people wanted a test that actually could tell how a student may perform in a college or university setting, and he wanted to make a test that was based solely on reasoning and achievement that a person receives and to be a competitor to the SAT. There were 75,460 people to take it when it was first being distributed. You were given forty-five minutes for each section and in all, it lasted 3 hours. When it first came out you were given a score starting from “0 and ending at 36 but there was a minor change and now you get a score from 1-36” 2. The test first went by its full name, American College Testing, but now goes by the shortened version, ACT. The ACT quickly rose to be more popular than the SAT and in the year 20181, more students decided to take the ACT instead of the SAT. ACT Inc. is the publisher of the test, and they have been for years. When the ACT was first made there were four sections on the test like English, Social Studies, Math, and Natural Sciences but just like the SAT it has changed. The Social Studies section later changed into a reading section and the Natural Science section later became a Science reasoning test. Later in 20051 the ACT also decided to add an optional writing section. The company doesn’t just administer the test, but they have stepped up to do more things like career preparation, adult education, and other services.

All colleges and universities accept the SAT and ACT, and they receive thousands of them every year. They use these tests to narrow down the search and to come to a decision on who can get into their school. Depending on what you score it can affect your decision majorly, if you have a low score they may not even count you and pass you by. Sometimes schools use your score instead of reading the rest of the documents they required you to submit. The test is used for many things like admission decisions, course placement, academic advising, and scholarships and loans. The score helps officials in the admission offices of schools to find applicants that can really succeed from what they offer at their school. The scores also help a college decide if you would be placed in one of the three sections of their courses which are developmental, regular, and advanced. Colleges also look at the scores to help figure out what you should study at their college and what you would excel in. When they bring everything together like your grades and test scores they can find scholarships, loans, and decide if you would need financial assistance when going to their school.

The tests have been such an important part to colleges but ever since the pandemic hit the world and changed things, everything is different. At the start there were many colleges still requiring the tests and it messed up many students. There was a 17-year-old in Brooklyn New York who spent countless amounts of time getting prepared for the test just for it to be cancelled. One of the most upsetting things about the test getting canceled was that they didn’t get a notification for it, and they had to find out for themselves. There was also a student who bought a ticket to fly to Boston to be able to take the test but once they arrived they learned that the test was canceled. Another student had to go through a canceled test five times and still didn’t know if she would have the test the next day. Parents and students have tried to call the companies to possibly get their test rescheduled because it was cancelled but there are such long wait times, one parent waited nine hours, and many times even after waiting they don’t get through to anyone and just give up. There have been several students that decided to not even take the test because they kept getting canceled and there was no way for them to get there.

The pandemic has also changed the ways that the tests are being taken, for the ones who are able. For the ACT tests that weren’t canceled there were new social distancing guidelines, that made you wear a face mask and new Covid-19 protocols that had to be followed by everyone in attendance. They also had to look into every test center just to see what the maximum capacity could be in the pandemic. Students who would graduate in 20204 and 20214 were also signed up for the next possible dates. Pop-up events were also made in hotel centers and conference centers so the students could still take the test. They also worked with states to come up with the safest days and ways to still have the exams be carried on.

The ACT wasn’t the only company that decided to make changes but the College Board decided to also. There have been many more guidelines that staff and students have to follow whenever signing up for the test. Everyone who would be in attendance has to wear a mask and if you don’t you will be escorted out from the facility or won’t even be allowed inside. All students in the test room have to be seated six feet apart from each other and every student would have to answer a series of questions to make sure they didn’t have any symptoms. If anyone didn’t follow the rules they would have to leave the premises and their scores would be cancelled without receiving a refund. The CDC also recommended many things like advising students to have gloves, hand sanitizer, and/or other equipment that would keep them safe. Locations were also required to have signs in the halls to keep everyone safe and to remind them of the rules. They also encouraged that the students and staff washed their hands regularly and to not attend the test if they were sick.

Even through the pandemic, test scores are still very important to many schools. There have been many schools becoming test-optional over the years and it seems like it’s going to continue going up. Even though many schools are test-optional a lot of schools still require the scores and if you don't send them in you won’t even be considered for admissions. Scores are required for every student even if you are trying to become an athlete. Many colleges that are even test-optional require an athlete to send in their test scores and if they don’t they will not be able to attend that particular school. They also use the scores for the admission decision to see how much they compare to your school grades. When you decide on which college you want to go to you have to meet with an advisor, and they help you come up with the classes that you will take. Course placement is another important factor when it comes to scores because the use of the scores helps you find what exact course you should be placed in. Scholarships and other money can also come from test scores and many of them require you to meet a specific standard that they make.

When it comes to looking at what is more important in the admissions process between the college admissions exam scores and your GPA it gets complicated. Your GPA actually shows schools your actual result with school work. Not everyone is a good test-taker, and they tend to do bad on the test, but they would have excellent grades in school. Your grades could also show everything that you’ve accomplished, for example: if you score low in the beginning years of high school but get the grade up in like junior or senior year schools notice that, and they see that you are actually determined to make yourself get better. The main advantage that the SAT and ACT have been that they are standardized. All schools are different and there are different curriculums but the exams are where the students meet and it makes it easier for officers to judge off of the score. Some colleges also just want to bring in students that have a high score because it looks good for them, and they couldn't care less about the students. There is also a thing called the SAT aptitude reputation. This shows admission officers a lot of things, and they use it a lot to come to a decision. One example of the SAT aptitude reputation is if a student has a 2.5 GPA and sends in a 15306 test score. Admission officers look at that and feel like the student just wasn’t challenged enough in school but when they get to college they will succeed and do very well. Another example is if someone has a 4.06 GPA but a 12506 on the SAT. They look at that and feel like the GPA is suspicious since it’s so high but the test score doesn’t reflect that.

There has been an ongoing argument on how the college admission exams don’t accurately convey what a student can bring to the table. They say that too much focus is put on the scores of the tests and everything else that comes in the application is completely irrelevant. Different schools have different opinions and it really comes down to what they require from each student. Many schools have stopped requiring the tests but some still do so many people say that you should still take it because of reasons for requiring it and many other things. Another reason to take it is because of the scholarships it may bring. Some merit scholarships require the tests so you can apply to them. Another reason is to boost your odds against other applicants. Sometimes officers just look at your score and decide from that. Scores aren’t the only thing required when applying to college, but they are a very important piece.

There are quite a few things that admission officers look at before making their final decision. One thing they try to look at is high school grades. They look at what you excel in and what you make and need a little more help in, also the classes you took. As we know the scores you receive from the ACT and SAT are a valuable piece to the admission process. There are millions of students who take the test every year and many colleges use them as a deciding factor between other applicants. Officers will also look at subject tests from the SAT but these aren’t always required because not everyone takes them. They will also look to see if you were in any AP classes or took any AP tests and if you did it could improve your chance to get into their college. There’s a college admission essay that many colleges require, and they look to see how much better yours is compared to others. Extracurriculars also come into play to see how diverse you are and how much you can stretch yourself. Recommendations from your teachers are another thing that they look at because they give more information on who you are, and they are a chance to learn more about you. Some colleges will conduct interviews for you, not all will but if they do they use it as a resource for coming to a decision. Your actual application to the college is very important to them because it may give them information that isn’t anywhere else in the process. The last thing that the officers look at is your background and race because they would want to make their school more diverse and not just fit one type of race.

Education is a vital component to the SAT and ACT but it really depends on what school you are going to. Some schools have a lot of students and only one teacher so you won’t really get that one-on-one help like if you went to a smaller school. The reason you typically score higher when there are fewer students is because you are getting the help you need and the teacher is able to help each individual student instead of a teacher just teaching to the majority and not really going over the topic. When you are able to get the help you need you have the ability to really reach your potential and score high on the exams. Everyone knew about the tests not fully focusing on school so the SAT has recently made a change in 2016 to focus more on what is taught in school. The College Board went as far as to say that the tests cover exactly what you learn in school and it gives us what we need to succeed in college. The test also focuses on subjects that many people don’t even want to do in college or what they go over. One thing that is really focused on in the test is grammar but the only people who really care about it are the ones who want to become writers, editors, or teachers. If that doesn’t relate to you, then you won't be interested in it and won’t really care. Nowadays a lot of schools don’t really focus on grammar because they expect you to know the basics but sometimes on the test the questions are advanced and it may be on something that you only spent around five minutes on. So if your school doesn’t actually go over certain topics you have to pay more for resources that would help you learn what’s on it.

Another problem that is still facing the tests is the math section. In school, you go over math topics like geometry, algebra, trigonometry, etc. and you will see all of these things on the SAT and ACT but that’s not what the math test is about. The math test is about speed and answering all the questions. It’s not there to test your knowledge of math but to see how fast you can get fifty-eight questions done in around eighty8 minutes. You don’t have enough time to make sure that your answers are correct which leaves room for simple mistakes which leads to you getting the question wrong and that hurts your final score. As time goes on colleges have realized that the SAT and ACT don’t matter because it has been proven that there isn’t a difference between college students who have taken the tests and ones who haven’t.

With all of these challenges we can clearly see the SAT and ACT are not aligned with the curriculum of the school and were never supposed to. They were made for colleges to be able to find a student easier. What I mean by that is that they are used to finding students who may seem “smarter” than the others. A higher score makes college admission offices look at your information sooner than others but this doesn’t help the rest of the applicants. It pushes back the rest of the students who may have tried in school and had good grades but might not have scored so well on the exams.

As Americans, we are supposed we believe in equality and a lot of us say we do but when it comes to children parents want them to succeed more than anyone else, and what it seems like everything they said before has now gone right out of the window. If they have enough money parents will pay for test prep, tutoring, extracurricular activities, and all the other things that would give their child the edge over everyone else. Some families just don’t have enough money for these things so the only thing that their child can do for their education is go to school. They don’t have the same opportunities as the students who have a family with more money which could hurt them in the long run.

There has been a report that almost 12 million students will drop out of school in the next decade which would be a loss of $1.59 trillion for the entire country. Many schools have seen that there is a problem with the schools, and they have been trying to change the way they do certain things. The District of Columbia has found a way to make sure that students are getting what they need, and they aren’t just being put into classes that wouldn’t help them. There are now school choice programs, and they allow families to make sure that it is fair education for all students. The new program would make it so that the families who can’t afford to move to a better location or pay such a high tuition can still have their children be taught the same as richer families. The government funds K-129 public schools, but they shouldn’t be a sole provider because they can’t give what the students really need. It is easy to see how other schools like private and charter schools are able to give their students more and what they actually need. It has been proven that the new program has been helping the new students because there have been positive effects on all the schools.

We already have a problem with different families and students being favored more because of money but race is also a huge problem. Certain parts of the SAT and ACT are going to make students of different races have different answers which result in a different score. The SAT and ACT have been getting a lot of attention about being more favored for the white community and colleges have become more and more hesitant about using them and some have even stopped requiring them for admission. The Harvard Educational Review talks about the ACT and SAT and how it has held back black students. Everything about the tests like the admission decision, the access to higher education, job placement, and success professionally are all in favor of the white community and leaves African Americans behind. Black students had an average score of 429 when it came to the reading section of the tests but even though that may seem like a good grade, it’s 9910 points behind the white community that takes the tests. People who defend the tests say that black students aren’t as likely as white students to attend a well-financed school and schools with enough staff members and because of this, their scores aren’t as high as everyone else. The defendants of the tests just try to say that African Americans score lower on the test because of society but the tests are fair for everyone. Many educators have questioned the wealth of certain families being a factor on whether it has something to do with the scores along with the race of students coming into play. It has also been proven that the easier questions on the test are in favor of the white community and the more difficult ones are favored for the black community.

There has been a lot of research done to prove that other races are favored more than others and there is a lot of data to help prove it. When you find the mean of the math score for the SAT it’s 511 out of 80011 but you can break up the score by the race of different people. The average score for blacks is 428, latinos have a score of 457, whites have a score of 534, and Asians have a score of 598.11 The black-white gap in the SAT is very serious and it’s been that way for many years. When you look at the years from 199611 to 201511 the gap between the two groups has just gotten worse. There was a standard deviation of .911 in 199611 and in 201511 it was all the way at a .8811 deviation. One thing that supports this claim made by several people are when you look at the percentage of the people who take the test. Test-takers were 54 percent white, 16 percent Latino, 13 percent black, and 4 percent Asian.11 There isn't an equal number of every race taking the tests but for whites to be the majority group and their scores still being higher than everyone by a long shot really show how they have more questions that are favored for them and in the end they have the advantage.

The race problem with the tests isn’t just with black people and latinos but it has also hurt a lot of Asian-Americans. There was one time when there was an interview being conducted when an Asian family asked if being Asian was going to hurt their chances into getting into college. There was actually a study that happened in 2009 that showed that many Asians had to score higher on their tests just to get to the same point where others are. Asians had to score 140 points higher than whites, 270 points higher than latinos, and 450 points higher than black people12. A few years after the study Harvard was sued because it was said that they had a cap on how many Asians could be admitted to their college. There were 16-19 of Asians in the school and it had never changed even though the population had doubled in America. In 201612 there was a complaint filed to Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth because of how low the percentage of Asians there were. The complaint there was an investigation conducted on the schools to see how things were going. When just looking at the point difference that Asians have to have many people look at the 45012 point score between Asians and African Americans but the one between the whites and Asians is the one that really is crazy. It’s only a 14012 point difference but it also has to do with many other things. They all look at the things like: “academic performance, legacy status, social class, type of high school (public or private) and participation in athletics”12. This research has really shown that the SAT and ACT are catered for white people and the other minorities and races have to do a lot more to be able to be considered.

With all of the challenges that have faced the exams there has been a call for a change and there have actually been some strides being taken. Many people have complained that what a student learns in school isn’t what’s on the test so the makers of the SAT teamed up with Khan Academy to make more resources available for schools. Khan Academy is a website with over 15 million students signed to it and is completely free for them to use. Just like Khan Academy the resources made for the SAT will be free for the students to use. With these new resources being available to more people it is claimed that it is going to help with the race problem that has been affecting the test. Many people feel like the SAT is unfair to other races that aren’t white people, and they are held back. The new resources are supposed to help “even the playing field” as the president of the College Board said. The new resources are going to be put into many schools, and they might even be there as separate classes. The company also wants the schools to track students from 8th grade all the way until their senior year so that they can see if they are actually working. This new resource situation is a step in the right direction and might benefit students.

To make the tests better is one way by making your experience better and to do things that will increase your score. One great thing to do is to start preparing for the next time you take the test once the first one ends. Once you finish the first test you should write down everything you remembered from that test so that you can go over it and study the way the questions are asked and how exactly they expect for you to think through it. Also, when you receive your test score report you should look at it and examine everything to see where you need to improve and where you don’t really need help. Setting a target score is another good thing to do because it can prepare for what you need to focus on and just how much studying is ahead. Figuring out which mistakes you make the most also help you learn where you need to improve and just exactly where you need to work on the most. Joining a study group also helps because you can see and learn new things that you might have not noticed before. Also, if you use free study materials it could help a lot because they are very close to the actual tests and could really help in preparation. Getting help in preparation for the tests helps a lot because you may learn new tricks for the tests and many people who get help from tutors usually score higher on the tests than others. You should also memorize the easiest materials so once you take the test you don’t have to worry about working out the problem or figuring it out because you already know it. Also using the process of elimination would help to because it could help you single out answers to get to the best one. The last and one of the most important things to do is to continually practice. Practice may not make perfect but it makes things a lot better and easier.

The problems with the tests have been so popular that even a major political figure had to step in and try to help with the problem. When Barack Obama was still in office he decided to sign a form that would help people get a much more fair chance. In that bill that was signed it said that all students would be held to a high standard not just ones that went to a certain school, more children would be able to attend higher-quality preschools, there would be less tests in schools and more teaching by the teachers, state and local systems would get more power in making strong systems for schools, and the making of more programs that would make schools more competitive, expand the opportunity for the children, and have a better outcome for them as well. There were also many new laws that administrators had to follow in their states so that the goal could be reached for everyone. The Obama administration really wanted students to succeed and reach their max potential.

When you look at the tests and all the problems it may bring you kind of feel like they're just there to hurt you so you won’t succeed. Since there are so many things that come from the tests and are such a vital obstacle in how your future is going to play out it can bring a lot of things and one of those things is anxiety. Anxiety is also a tricky thing because even though there are so many things out there to help it’s hard to get completely rid of it. One way that could help is to take practice tests. Practice tests are the best way to prepare for the test because it gets you more familiar with the tests. You can take practice tests on both the ACT and SAT websites but the thing about them is that they are retired tests and we know that overtime the tests change. Another way that helps with anxiety is to focus on what’s going to be on the test instead of tricks. The problem with this one tip is that you are learning things at a broader rate. You never know what exactly is going to be on the test so you have to cram different formulas in your head which could lead you to forget vital information.

Getting familiar with the test site could help with anxiety but this is more of a temporary solution. Getting to your seat may calm you a little bit but you still have to worry about the test. Finding a way to relax is a vital solution to a lot of things and of them is the ACT and SAT. It could calm you down but the thought of taking the actual tests could still be in your head. The day before the tests is also huge because of the things you need to do. You should go to bed earlier, get out of the house, not take a practice test, and get everything ready. The issue with this is that the anxiety can still come and make you even more nervous about what’s to come. On the actual day of the test, you should get yourself excited for the test, come up with a strategy, not worry about other students, and eat before you go in. All of these things can mess you up if you think about it. Getting yourself excited for the test to come into what you’re going to do after the test and make you rush through it. Coming up with a strategy could be a problem because the strategy you use may not work for you but you won’t learn that until you get your scores back. Not worrying about students doesn’t work. You compete with all of the students because you want to score higher to them and that could make you overthink. Eating before the test could become very fatal because it could mess up your stomach and that just adds another problem to the test-taking situation.

It always seems like big corporations have problems with money and it's no different when it comes to the College Board and ACT Inc. Students start preparing for the SAT and ACT as early as thirteen years old. They take the tests several times to get more acquainted with it and many times parents would pay top dollar so their child could increase their scores by hundreds of points. Some classes for the tests could start at one hundred dollars and go all the way to one thousand14 dollars. Not every family has this type of money and they just can’t afford to send their child to not even one of the classes. America is built on the saying of “free education”14 but then these SAT and ACT courses come into play. Wealthier people usually have higher education than the regular person which leads to them scoring higher on tests like the ACT and SAT. The students who can take these courses score higher than the rest of the people and it seems like the tests are made for them. It isn’t like these students only take one course and are ready for the tests but they sometimes take up to three courses which causes them to pay a fee of three thousand dollars14! It’s rare for a person to have the skill of being a great test taker and are smart and automatically score high on the test. You can always study on your own but for some people that just don’t work and they need extra help.

A lot of students don’t just go to their courses and have everything there so on top of paying for an extra course, you have to pay for the practice book which could be pretty expensive. There have been many times when a parent gets their child a tutor instead of taking a course but again not everyone has money for a tutor. There are more loopholes around paying for a class or a session but you can’t alway come by them. One thing that helps students of Mountain View High School is how they have made SAT and ACT prep classes but they have them at a reduced price. Another great loophole is if you have a friend that takes the courses. They could give you tips on how to improve your score and even help you study.

There was someone who took their time and studied for the SAT for weeks. They went to the library, got a test book and went to take the test. When they took the test they scored a 1,040 which is not what they wanted because they wanted to go to an Ivy League college. They took the test again by taking more practice tests and spending more time on it. When they got their scores back again they scored higher but it was only 1,16015. They were still disappointed because they wanted at least 1,20015. After all, that’s what schools wanted. They did all they could do by themselves, so they asked their parents if they could pay for one of the SAT courses that help get them prepared for the test. The problem with this was that it cost $50015, and they just didn’t have enough money for it. Since they couldn’t do anything else they kept their score and went to college but the problem with all of this is that the SAT is just there for the money. The college board calls itself a “not-for-profit,” 15 company but that’s not the truth. If you want to add anything to the test like an essay, which many colleges require, the total price would equal $64.5015. That wouldn’t be the end of it either, there are many other services that you could add even a score report which is $1215.

Even though many people say they do the ACT and SAT can’t tell you how well a student will do in their college career. You can argue that the scores received from the test shows how well your grades will be in the first year of college but it truly can’t. A good thing that the test can actually show is really how rich a family actually is. If a family makes a lot of money there is a high chance that their scores on the ACT and SAT will be very high and this actually comes from data from the College Board who are the creators of the test. The less money you make will be a higher chance for you to be denied at higher ranked colleges. The College Board has actually said that it will do an adversity score that is made of 15 factors. Some factors are neighborhoods, characteristics of the people in the neighborhood, and crime and poverty rate. Richer families have more access to a lot more resources like tutoring, test prep, and enrichment activities which all aid in getting a higher score. Because of this money problem a lot of schools have become test-optional so the divide would no longer be there since the tests really just show wealthy families against broker families.

The main concern when it comes to money are the families that don’t have it. What do they do? How can they prepare for the test, so they can score higher? What ways can others help them score higher? One way to help is just by reading. There is a lot of reading in the tests and the best way to get prepared is by doing it on your own. There are several places where you can read from so you just have to go online and do it and make sure that you understand the reading and even make questions from it. There are also many test prep options out there that are free. It’s good to go online and find them and try to work on them. Although you may not be with a specific person you may still be getting the help you need to score high. Another way is to do homework that schools hand out. Many people don’t think it works well but if it’s the only option it would be great help.

Fee waivers are another huge help to these families because it allows them to take the tests for free. It is very simple to register for a fee waiver but the only thing that really matters is if you are eligible for it. If you think you are able to get one all you have to do is contact your school counselor they will help you get it. If you are homeschooled you have to contact a counselor of a local school and provide the right information and once you do you will be able to get it. When it comes to registering with the fee waiver there are different ways you could do it. If you do it online all you have to do is type in the 12 digit code given, the name of the counselor that helped you get it, and proof that you are eligible for it. If you send it in by mail you would also include the same information that you had when you applied online but you would add the registration form. There are several things that fee waivers cover also. You get to take the SAT twice with or without the essay and you get 217 free Question and Answer Services. There are a few college benefits that come with the fee waivers also. You can send an unlimited amount of score reports to colleges, at certain colleges you can get a waived application fee, and you get free CSS Profile applications that help you sign up for financial aid from certain colleges. With the fee waivers the only tests that are free are when you are in your junior and senior years but in all of your highschool years you can take Subject Tests for free. Fee waivers also don’t if you want to change your test center, test date, or if you want to rush your scores or receive it by phone, all of that would be at an extra cost. To be eligible for a fee waiver you have to be in the 11th17 or 12th17 grade and you will need to be a part of a low income family. If you are in the grades of 9-1217 you would also be able to get a fee waiver but only for the subject tests.

Money and anxiety aren’t the only problems that students face but another major problem is the time given on the tests. In recent years people have been wondering if it’s time to make a major change for the college admission exams. Many people say the SAT and ACT are timed because that’s how college is. There is a lot of critical thinking, close reading, and collaboration in college but you won’t find that on the tests. People believe that if you really take time away from the test then it would be such a greater chance for it to be fair. Wealthier families who spend thousands of dollars on resources and preparatory classes would no longer have the advantage over everyone else. They also claim that it would be a better way to find a child’s true capabilities. A professor at Ohio State University said that we put the skill of answering test questions quickly too high on a pedestal and the best way to really test how well they are at deep thinking and being thoughtful is by giving them time to do it. Of Course with every idea there has to be someone who goes against it and a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Education says the tests need to stay timed because it can predict a students chances in their freshman year. He says that in college everything is timed and things are always coming at you so the best way to prepare for that is the test. The tests are extended for people with disabilities but even for them there isn’t always enough time. A girl by the name of Savannah Treviño Casias took the test, and she has a disability but even after taking the extended test she said that she still could’ve used more time. The test just isn’t right for anyone when it comes to time and many people continue to struggle with it.

There are limitations with the extended time and you have to reach certain requirements. The only people who can get it are the ones with a disability that will cause them to work slower. A few examples of that are students who write slowly and would need a large print text book, students with ADHD who may not work well in larger groups, or students with diabetes that may need more breaks than others. When you get extended time you may also get extra breaks in between the sections but it doesn’t take away from your test time. When signing up for specific time you also have to be specific on what section(s) you would need more time to complete. There are also different options when it comes to picking extended time. One option is 50% more time, the other is double time or just 100% more time, and the last option is 150%.

With more and more concerns about the tests there have been alternatives to come about. One possibility which is happening more in recent years is that schools are becoming test-optional. These schools have the tests as an additional option instead of something really important. They allow students to use other things like a transcript, resume, or portfolio. They may also have you do an interview so see if you would fit their type of school. Another test that people are using is the CLT or Classic Learning Test. It is very comparable to the ACT and SAT but it’s better. All you have to do is sign-in on your computer and take the two hours test. You also don’t have to wait for your score because it’s calculated automatically so you receive it once you finish. The last alternative way of the tests is specific college exams. This is something that a lot of Ivy league and private schools use to get more of a feel of who the student is.

There’s also some major improvements that could be done that would really benefit students. The first step is by getting rid of the SAT and ACT and then making a criteria that would fit that campus and school. Instead of comparing students with one another they would make a way to bring the students together and find who would really be able to shine at the school. Another way was to really look at the recommendation given by teachers to see who that student is and just how good they are. They should also look at the achievements the students had one and just how important they really are. They shouldn’t be an add on to what is giving but an actual important part. They also shouldn’t look at honors and AP classes so much because that may be one some schools only have or they may have a lot of them that enroll many students. Colleges should also take a step back and look at how serious the SAT and ACT are to their admissions process so they could see if it really mattered or not. They should also be connected to community colleges so then they could really see how the student would be in a college setting.

For this case study I used several test subjects but many of them can be grouped together. The first group of my test subjects were college students. I picked college students because I knew that they all took the test to get into their respective colleges. Since they had to deal first hand with new and updated tests I wanted their opinions and thoughts about it. I knew they could give very valuable information that would strengthen my argument point and maybe even expound on my topic. The next group of test subjects I had were a mix of guidance counselors, admission officers, and a director of college. They may not work with the exams first hand, as in taking the tests, but they do have to deal with them a lot. They may know more information than the average student so learning from there and getting their thoughts and opinions really helped me and even let me see if they thought the exams are necessary or not. The last test subject I had was an employee of The College Raptor which is a tutoring company for both the SAT and ACT. Since there is someone who can actually work with the SAT and ACT they probably know the ends and outs of it so getting information from them would be very valuable.

The methods I used were both surveys and an interview. The first group of test subjects that I used was a survey on where the college students. I felt like they were all going to have most of the same knowledge on the topic so I decided to group them together. Admission officers, guidance counselors, and the director were all grouped together and filled out a survey for me. I made the questions in a way they could all answer because many of the questions were universal. The last method I used was an interview which was for The College Raptor employee. I knew that they would have more information than everyone else so it would be best to have a one-on-one with them.

There were several themes that I had in my surveys and interviews and most of them were able to be crossed over. The themes that were in my analysis are: The Discrimination in the SAT and ACT, Test-Optional Schools, and Low Test scores and Stress. Many of my themes came from my challenge questions and my outline. When coming up with themes I wanted the ones that really related to my paper and could help strengthen my argument.

Even though many of my themes crossed over I have a unique and separate analysis of all my themes for each survey and interview. My first analysis comes from my interview and the first them that I explored was “The Discrimination in the SAT and ACT”. This theme was created from my outline where I have a section on how white people are more favored than minorities when it comes to the tests and I wanted to see how other people saw this topic and their opinion on it. This particular section relates to my challenge questions of “What have some colleges done to help this problem?”. The same disadvantages that are placed on students of color are also on students who don’t have the proper resources to improve or score high on the test. If it is proven that with the process of being admitted into college changing because of schools becoming test-optional then the trend will continue and more and more schools will start having the same process. Now more and more schools are becoming test-optional, and it has been changing the way students are being admitted into college. This is a huge advantage to students of color because of the disadvantage that is placed on them. An individual from the University of California discussed how they were planning to become test-optional due to different racial issues within their test and they stated, “But a new, long-term analysis of SAT scores has found that, among applicants to the University of California's campuses, race and ethnicity have become stronger predictors of SAT scores than family income and parental education levels.” (Jaschik, 2015).

The second theme that I explored in my interview was “Test-Optional Schools”. This is another section where I was seeking others’ opinions because schools are now going into this new direction of becoming test-optional and seeing how others felt about it would help me see a different perspective. There are a lot of schools that are now test-optional, and it’s a trend that will continue, but even though many of the schools are test-optional that doesn’t mean that the SAT and ACT should just stop being taken. There are many things that the scores do, and one is helping grant scholarships. “As someone who knows how schools award merit scholarships, I can tell you that a couple of points on your standardized test score could mean the difference in thousands of dollars worth of financial aid each year.” (Cooper, 2021). Before the pandemic hit the world and changed things, the scores from the exams meant a lot to the admission process. When I was researching this specific topic and talked to a few people, I learned that some schools were test-optional even before the pandemic and that some schools are considering continuing to be test-optional even when the pandemic is over. One school is the University of California which I talked about a little in my previous section and they plan to become fully test-optional. Another school that was test-optional even before the pandemic was Johnson and Wales because they feel like the tests don't accurately measure someone's knowledge.

My interviewee gave me very valuable information and some more came in my next theme which is “Low Test Scores and Stress”. This theme is more of a relatable section for everyone and it lets me see if others have or see the same problem that I do with too much stress being put on to students because of the low test scores they receive or believe they can receive. My interviewee commented on this topic and said that “More schools are allowing you to submit applications and will use your high school GPA in lieu of a test score.” Even though the scores aren’t looked at how they were before they are still very important and because of that it can add so much stress to a student to score high. Also if you, unfortunately, get a low score on a test it can hurt if you turn it in and it may be even worse than not turning in a score at all. My interviewee also said something very similar to this by saying, “In some cases, submitting a low test score could be more damaging than not submitting a score at all.” Also, if we refer back to my earlier theme which was, “Test-optional Schools” we can see that my interviewee said that even a few points can decide how much you receive in your financial aid package. Many schools have noticed this problem and have begun changing their admissions process a little by looking at the application submitted and putting more focus on your GPA as my interviewee said.

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In conclusion,  my research suggests that the trend towards test-optional admissions is a positive development that could help level the playing field for students of color and those without access to expensive test preparation resources. However, it is clear that standardized test scores still play an important role in college admissions, and students must navigate the complex trade-offs between stress, financial aid, and their own academic achievements.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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A Critical Research on the Effectiveness of College Acceptance Exams. (2023, March 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 2, 2023, from
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