Standardized Tests and College Success

By Anagha Rao


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons @ Erjwiki

At some point, every high school student has taken a standardized test because they “accurately predict college success.” But how much do these standardized tests actually predict college grades or graduation rates?

Standardized tests are believed to be an accurate indicator of future success because they provide an objective point of view. According to some people, every high school has a different grading system as well as varying levels of grade inflation or deflation. Supposedly, standardized tests are equal for students of all circumstances. However, standardized tests have proven to be an ineffective way of predicting success and are biased against students of poor socioeconomic backgrounds.


According to a study from the UChicago Consortium on School Research, students with high GPAs in rigorous classes is a five times stronger predictor of college graduation than ACT scores. Across the high schools studied, students with high school GPAs under 1.5 had around a 20% chance of graduating from college. For students with GPAs of 3.75 or higher, that chance rose to around 80%. The authors of this study found that at some high schools, students with competitive ACT/SAT scores were less likely to succeed in college and handle college-level material than students with higher GPA’s. Since standardized tests are mainly multiple choice, they are ineffective at measuring the complexity and creative thinking of student’s thoughts while focusing on rewarding students who have minds suited to proficient test-taking.


If a student writes a creative and complex answer to a question, it will be read by a machine and deducted points for using the wrong format. In the 21st century, it is increasingly important to be creative and curious rather than memorize information for a standardized test, which is what we’re forced to do if we’re aiming to score well. Moreover, standardized tests foster an artificial environment because few situations in our lives require us to respond with multiple-choice answers. For example, Albert Einstein failed numerous standardized tests, and he believed that there is no point in memorizing information that could be looked up in a book.


Another major factor for standardized tests is stress. Students are constantly being told that the ACT/SAT are crucial to getting admitted to a decent college. Psychologically, some students tend to thrive under pressure, and some students get so overwhelmed by stress that they are unable to engage higher-order thinking necessary for exceptional performance on standardized tests. Thus, these tests seem to be suited for a specific group of people who don’t tend to underperform when pressured.

Standardized tests have also been widely criticized as being biased against racial minorities. ACT/SAT scores are directly correlated with income levels because wealthier students can afford expensive test-prep services and coaches. Since the ACT/SAT is a coachable test, many teachers tend to teach with the goal of preparing students for standardized tests rather than focusing on valuable knowledge for students. Many standardized test designers devise questions with background knowledge that many minority students may not have. The language of standardized tests is biased to include many tricky words that may not be familiar to nonnative English speakers. Additionally, research shows that a fast-paced test that rewards guessing favors males over females. It’s also seen that students who have educated parents are more likely to excel on standardized tests, and schools with better funding tend to have higher average test scores than Title 1 schools, or schools that receive federal funds.

Based on the evidence, it can be concluded that standardized tests are inefficient and inaccurate in measuring intelligence, creativity, future success, and graduation rates. Studies have shown that the best way to measure college readiness and success is through high school grades, specifically in difficult college-level courses.



Educational Content

Q: How are standardized tests biased against low-income students?

A: ACT/SAT scores are directly correlated with income levels, because wealthier students can afford expensive test-prep services and coaches. Since the ACT/SAT is a coachable test, many teachers tend to teach with the goal of preparing students for standardized tests rather than focusing on valuable knowledge for students. Many standardized test designers devise questions with background knowledge that many low-income or minority students may not have.


Q: What is the best indicator of academic success in college?


A: Studies have shown that the best way to measure college readiness and success is through high school grades, specifically in difficult college-level courses. This is because the study skills developed in high school greatly impact the study skills used in college to learn complex material, and students with smart study habits will succeed more in college than someone who procrastinates in high school.




Sources

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2019/12/11/lawsuit-claims-sat-and-act-are-biased-heres-what-research-says/?sh=6745e9653c42


https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/08/19/colleges-should-rethink-using-standardized-test-scores-admissions-major-counselors-group-says/


https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/17/11/when-testing-takes-over


https://www.uleth.ca/teachingcentre/standardized-testing-fair-or-not


https://consortium.uchicago.edu/news-item/new-study-finds-high-school-GPA-beats-standardized-tests


https://news.uchicago.edu/story/test-scores-dont-stack-gpas-predicting-college-success


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No changes were made, File:SAT-Grid-In-Example.svg - Wikimedia Commons, License: Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International — CC BY-SA 4.0

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