Are Standardized Tests Necessary? By Sean Kim

Last week, Northwestern University declared that they are going ‘test blind’. The announcement came as a surprise, considering Northwestern is the first elite school to adopt such a policy. There are many high ranking universities that have the test-optional policy, such as George Washington University, American University, and the University of Chicago. However, there was no high ranking school that went completely ‘test-blind’. The biggest difference between test-optional and test-blind is that under test-optional policy, the test scores may or may not work in favor of the applicant, depending on their score while test-blind policy never even considers standardized test scores as a part of the admission. So scoring 36 on the ACT will not be an advantage in the application. So why did they adopt such a policy despite many controversies? The answer lies in a recent study done by two researchers from the University of Chicago.

According to fatherly.com, a new study proved that GPAs are five times better at predicting college graduation than ACT or SAT scores and is a better indicator for student’s potential. They say that unlike standardized tests that only cover certain areas of reading comprehension, math, and grammar, GPA covers much more variety of contents and is based on multiple years of stats. Unlike standardized tests, where some students score 30 or above on the first try without any prep for the ACT, it is hard to maintain a competitive GPA without trying. The researchers said, “High school GPA with college graduation was strong and consistent.” They also added that GPAs measure a “very wide variety of skills and behaviors that are needed for success in college.” Based on their claims on how performance at school curriculum is a better indicator of a student’s success, why do high ranking colleges still require standardized tests? Because people’s value of GPAs is inconsistent across high schools and standardized tests like the ACT, they are neutral indicators of college readiness.

Does this mean students and parents should invest more time and money in school curriculums than standardized tests? Maybe. While it is true that standardized tests are controversial nowadays, as Californians are demanding UC schools to go test-blind as well, most top colleges haven’t taken many actions in terms of totally excluding standardized tests in their application. It is possible in a decade or two from now for more universities to adopt the test-blind policy but only after more reliable research proves that GPA is a better indication of student potential than the standardized tests. For those who are aiming for competitive schools for college, investing some time in prepping for the ACT or SAT is a must. However, GPAs show more about you since it is stat-based over the course of four years of high school, whereas standardized tests are only a one-time event. Some students may not be talented enough to ever score decent on the standardized tests. Though it may work against you, if you prove that you are a determined and qualified candidate by having competitive GPAs and strong extracurricular activities, there will definitely be some schools that will detect your potential. After all, SATs and ACTs don’t matter from the point where you get accepted to college. It will not impact your life after high school. Though it is a good idea to give everything while prepping, do not stress over not getting your dream score on the test.


Created with an image by Alissa De Leva - "I took this photo in a private school in Italy (Bologna) and I found beautiful these two girls studying together."