"SAT 2020, Safe and Spaced" by Charlie Acquisto

EDITORIAL: Standardized testing needs work

Due to COVID-19, standardized testing is less accessible. As a result, many colleges across the country have gone test optional or test blind to accommodate for limited testing opportunities. With the need of testing on a hiatus, this is a good time to reevaluate standardized testing. 

There are undoubtedly benefits to standardized testing. It gives a common measurement of a student’s abilities and saves from taking a unique assessment test from each college they apply to. 

In theory, standardized testing would be a surefire way to give a fair assessment to all, but not its current state.

The SAT tests your ability to take this test, not the concepts behind the test. Thus, a person who studies for their classes wouldn’t do nearly as well as a person who does practice tests all day. This deviates from the purpose of a standardized test. Students end up studying the patterns of questions and content tested solely by the SAT, which doesn’t measure a student’s ability to excel in college.

The main issue of the SAT is its reading section. The reading makes up a large chunk of the test and has the most questions of all sections. Failing this section results in an overall useless score. The reading section tests the ability to interpret a passage the way the SAT would interpret it. High school English curricula teach students to interpret a piece of text in unique ways. Let’s take Country Day as an example. Analyzing literature such as Toni Morrison’s Beloved is hardly linear. If literature such as this appeared on the test, students would need to find one right answer from three wrong answers, determined by the SAT. With literature, however, there is almost never one right interpretation. In fact, there is no wrong interpretation. Therefore, SAT reading is hindering students’ English education. 

SAT must redesign the reading section. We understand the purpose of SAT reading is to develop comprehension skills, but the test questions are designed to mislead people. In many cases, the answers are riddled with unnecessarily complex language. The reading itself can contain unusual language: the questions shouldn’t. In addition, literature shouldn’t be tested in the reading section. High school students are specifically taught to interpret literature in a non-linear fashion, and it’s counterproductive to put that on a multiple choice test. 

With the SAT in its current state, it shouldn’t  be used as an integral factor for college admissions. It deviates from its original purpose as an aptitude test, and it fails to accurately predict a student’s ability to excel in college. When the pandemic blows over, we hope some long-awaited changes will be made to the SAT.

Originally published in the Oct. 20 edition of the Octagon.