Will colleges get rid of them altogether?

Standardized testing is supposed to be fair for every student, examining their knowledge and ability to succeed in school and future careers. The assessments are supposed to provide critical information where the students can even learn while taking the test. Much of the time, these exams are meant to be reflections of a student’s readiness for the next academic challenge. 

The quality of these tests is alleged to ensure students are state college and/or career ready. A few standards of these tests include; student growth, workforce readiness, and academic achievement. However, it is difficult to determine if these standards are true for every student, since all students have differing abilities and backgrounds in academia. 

With so much change occurring in higher education today, what will be the role of standardized testing in the future? First, there are many different types of testing that play a huge impact on higher education and potential learners.  

Different types of standardized testing 

There are several different types of standardized testing to extend a learner’s education. However, each test depends on a certain score or higher to gain admissions to a specific type of schooling. The questions are also standard for every student within the testing.  

SAT & ACT  

The first form of higher education standardized testing is the Standardized Aptitude Test (SAT) and American College Testing (ACT). These types of tests determine a student’s preparedness for college and are well-known for US schools. The tests are set up to measure a student’s critical thinking, problem solving, and reading comprehension skills.  

US colleges and universities typically accept scores from both tests, so it is best for a student to send in the test score they have the most advantage with. Most colleges also look at a student’s GPA, extracurricular activities, and background. 

GRE 

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Photo by Gaelle Marcel

The next standardized test for students looking to go into graduate or business school is the Graduate Record Exam. The GRE helps students earn admissions into graduate or business graduate programs, mainly emphasizing a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Admissions departments want to see how prepared students are for graduate level work in these types of tests. They are also looking at a student’s school background and other type of work that will support them through their graduate study.   

The GRE tests students’ verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills. The GRE wants to measure the student’s abilities in these sections and how they will prosper throughout their program.  

LSAT 

The Law School Admissions Test is another standardized test, this one used to determine a student’s ability to succeed in law school. The test is focused on a student’s critical reading, analytical and logical reasoning, and persuasive skills. These skills help a student’s drive for success in law school.  

The LSAT is broken into two parts: the first section is a digital multiple-choice exam, and the second section is an online writing portion. The LSAT is the only test accepted for ABA-accredited law schools and is the only test to help students inquire if law school is right for them.  

MCAT 

The most difficult standardized test of them all is the Medical College Admission Test. This multiple- choice exam accesses more than just a student’s problem-solving and critical thinking skills; it targets a student’s knowledge on behavioral and social science concepts and the study of medicine.  

The MCAT is broken into four sections. The sections address biological and biochemical foundations of living systems; chemical and physical foundations of biological systems; psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior; and critical analysis and reasoning skills. This exam helps potential medical students determine their readiness for medical school.   

Although standardized testing is structured and objective, there is a lot of political controversy.  Many disagree with standardized testing because of cultural and ability biases within the testing. 

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Photo by Avel Chuklanov

Opposition to testing

Some people see these assessments as unfair due to many students not having access to studying resources such as tutoring, practice tests, and others. With test formatting that is vastly different from most classroom environments, some teachers will alter their approach in order to support students in taking the exam. However, those who are against standardized tests say this practice lacks creativity and can impede student learning. 

Standardized tests also place students in a “one-size-fits-all” scenario, making it difficult for students with different learning styles to learn in a way that will help them succeed.  

Research has shown that students of color face obstacles in college entrance exams, one example being high-stakes testing which affects the quality of curriculum making it difficult for students to succeed in school as well as standardized tests. Ending high-stake standardized testing will reduce the number of students being held back due to low test scores and improve college acceptance rates without test scores being the main factor.  

Implementing fairness into the tests will help alleviate these such problems. Understanding cultural differences, offering unique learning techniques, and accommodating student differences will help improve the setup of standardized testing.  

While standardized exams are facing scrutiny, some universities are looking to opt out of testing and focus on other requirements.  

Schools opting out of testing  

UC schools are one of the largest nation’s public colleges and they are changing the future of standardized testing. As standardized testing is increasingly seen as inequitable to many students, the UC system is considering dropping SAT and ACT scores as a requirement for admissions.   

Jay Rosner of Princeton Review Foundation said this consideration is a “monster deal”, because of how impacted the UC system is and how many applicants take the SAT and ACT.  

Students can still take the tests and personally send in their scores, but the UC system will be potentially opting out of testing along with thousands of other nationwide schools this year. Although this decision must go through the UC general counsel, members see the standardized testing as flawed as many students struggle with performance and affordability of preparation classes.   

However, Regent George Kieffer has concerns if the SAT is eliminated from the system the “next few years will use another test to gauge student performance.” Alternatives for college admissions may be looking at a student’s GPA, socioeconomic background, and other types of California testing (e.g. STAR tests).  

If an institution is interested in opting out of testing, diversity will increase within schools. This will serve non-traditional students and change admissions policies. Making tests optional will help institutions focus on the student rather than the score as a primary measure of student success. 

At California Southern University, we prioritize our learners and avoid taking any test scores at all because we want to understand the students’ needs and how we can help them.  

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Photo by Drew Beamer

Not Defined by a Score  

The Achilles’ heel of testing is that it assumes everyone succeeds the same way. But one test does not fit all. Exams do not offer the opportunity to learn from incorrect answers, which encourages students to simply toss out the exam results when they get them back from the instructor. Standardized testing does not determine a learner’s intelligence or abilities. Some students can be great test takers while others struggle with the format, structure, or content. Countless learners who struggle with standardized tests hold an impressive amount of knowledge in varied areas. Exams do not accurately represent the abilities nor the potential of a student. 

CalSouthern understands that a learner’s potential is defined by their character, intelligence, motivation and perseverance. These qualities cannot be defined by standardized testing.  

The university does not require entrance exams (such as the SAT or GRE) for undergraduate and graduate admissions. We accept any potential learner who wants to learn and strengthen their abilities. We want each learner to feel accepted here and know they can grow into a well-rounded student no matter their future path.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Will the future of higher education eliminate standardized testing overall? 


About Dr. Donald “Doc” Hecht — Doc is an Educator, University Founder, and President Emeritus writing and discussing the trends and challenges facing higher, online, and distance education, among other topics. Please feel free to comment, make suggestions, or ask any questions! You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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