Last week, I read an article in The Epoch Times titled “University of California System Will No Longer Consider SAT and ACT Scores,” temporarily dropping standardized testing for admissions based on a lawsuit.
I like the idea of dropping the tests in theory, but in practice, some students will lose many potential benefits.
As a college educator and homeschool parent, I approach standardized testing from several different perspectives. Also, please note these are my observations and are not backed by any empirical data. It’s simply my process as a professor and academic adviser.
I will say that standardized testing does have its place by helping admission teams, advisers assigning courses, and schools allocating scholarships. As we know, all K-12 education is not equal and varies dramatically by the school, state, or homeschool curriculum. The one item that somewhat equalizes the entire process is standardized testing.
A student’s high school GPA, dual credit courses, and Advanced Placement courses are valuable indicators of future collegiate success. However, standardized testing is used in multiple ways to benefit a student. Of course, with a higher score, there are more benefits. However, lower scores are not bad if they are combined with a good GPA and extracurricular activities. Also, remember you don’t have to send the scores to all schools. If a school doesn’t require SAT or ACT scores and a score potentially reduces the ability to be accepted, don’t send the score.
Over the past two decades in education, I’ve found eight valuable benefits as a homeschool parent and college professor.
The first is practice testing. It’s like anything else; the more you practice, the better you will become. This is especially important for those students that over-analyze questions. There’s a process to learning how to answer standardized test questions. After taking multiple practice exams, most students realize keywords provide the answer. The overly analytical student will point out the flaws of the question, burning through precious time. The more they practice, the easier it becomes to simply answer the question and move on. Practice, Practice, Practice.
The second benefit is understanding standardized testing to become more comfortable with the stress of exams. Standardized testing is part of our lives. Everything from math placement tests, driver license exams to professional licenses all require standardized tests. Becoming comfortable taking a test written for various demographics will help students critically think through a confusing question and a stressful testing situation. PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP, CLEP, PRAXIS, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT are all potential tests your student will encounter.
The first and second benefits lead to the third: confidence. Reducing internal butterflies before an event is excellent, but it’s sorely needed before a college entrance exam. The pressure today’s students place on themselves is astounding. The dream of going to a big-name school, or following in their parent’s footsteps, weighs heavily on their minds. As the old adage says, confidence breeds success.
The fourth benefit is a necessity for homeschool students: academic validation. Your student needs to be seen for their potential, especially in the eyes of admission committees. Academics love rubrics and metrics to validate everything. When in a school system, students are ranked according to their classmates. In a homeschool, most are first in their class. We know our students are brilliant, but standardized entrance exams can quickly validate it to an admissions team.
The fifth benefit is placement into programs. Many professional field majors require a minimum ACT or SAT score for acceptance. Most of the health fields in my college require a minimum score, even though the university doesn’t require the test. It becomes a significant barrier to entry in many majors. I will note the scores are not high for entrance into these programs but are used for evaluation because of limited enrollment.
The sixth item is the waiving of courses based on test scores. Many colleges will waive courses based on specific ACT or SAT scores. I know several schools where math or introductory English will be waived based on higher ACT scores. What’s surprising is the scores are generally not unreasonably high.
The seventh benefit is in regards to academic advising. When advising, I use the test scores to help select courses based on the student’s testing strength. Many academic advisers know which instructors require more writing, weekly assignments, or provide discussion-based learning. I attempt to match the student with coursework fitting their test scores. A student with a lower math score will benefit from more assignments and fewer exams. A student with a higher English score might be better suited to an honors course that’s discussion-based. Universities are full of professional advisers trained to help students matriculate through school. Initially, all they have are test scores for evaluation.
The eighth and most significant benefit is scholarship. The University of California article mentions “nine campuses will no longer use the test scores to determine how to award scholarships.” I won’t go into the flaws of that thinking but want people to realize the scores do matter. High GPAs, test scores, athletics, and community service are all part of the equation. However, to get your foot in the scholarship door, you need an SAT or ACT score.
What it really comes down to is standardized testing does matter. As much as we want to avoid subjecting our kids to the stress of exam day, it’s coming at some point. Be their guide and help them become confident in their ability to take standardized tests.
Travis Kelly Wilson is an interior design professor at Western Kentucky University. He is the author of a book series for young children, “The Aspiring Architect.” He and his wife reside in the beautiful town of Falls of Rough, Kentucky, and enjoy traveling the world exploring architecture.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.