Is This the End of SAT/ACT?
By Paul Lim | Kaplan SAT & ACT Trainer
The recent news about SAT and ACT have not been encouraging. First, because of the coronavirus, SAT and ACT tests have been cancelled from March to June. Second, the president of the University of California recently recommended that all UC schools will go test-optional for the next 2 years, followed by another 2 years of being test-blind for in-state applicants. Starting in 2025, SAT and ACT scores will be eliminated for all applicants. This may sound like good news for students because parents and students alike would think that it will relieve some pressures from the students. But if you think closely and look further into the details, you can clearly see that without these tests, students may experience more pressure and also may not have a better chance of getting into the universities of their choice.
Firstly, let’s understand a bit of background. The decision to eliminate SAT and ACT actually ran counter to a recommendation by the faculty senate, which voted in April to keep the SAT and ACT. The faculty task force commissioned to study the impact of standardized tests found that they predict college success within the University of California system more effectively than high school grades or other measures. So, why is there an about-face on the faculty’s recommendations? The reason seems to be that of one person’s decision and there are political undercurrents that may have influenced this decision. The current discourse is that standardized tests are flawed and unfair and that they discriminate based on race and income. Therefore, doing away with these tests can help the under-privileged students get a better chance of admission. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, because there is no actual admission data to support this view yet.
Secondly, within the next few years, the UC system will do a study on the feasibility of creating its own admissions test, perhaps in collaboration with other California schools. What that means is that they will be replacing the SAT and ACT with a test of their own. Instead of relieving burdens of the students, this will likely add further burden to them. Instead of studying for one test that applies to all colleges, they will have to prepare for multiple tests (SAT/ACT and the California test). Since most students apply to schools all over the country, this is another piece of bad news for both students and parents. Furthermore, the UC system is strapped for cash, and they may not have the resources to design their own test. As of now, I think this is just wishful thinking.
Thirdly, from the perspective of admission officers, without SAT or ACT test scores, does it make their job easier or harder to admit qualified students? Admission officers typically look at several data points, not just test scores. Taking away this metric will only give them less visibility into the students’ aptitude, not more. But if the goal of test elimination is just to admit students, whether they are qualified or not, then test elimination will definitely accomplish that goal. Without standardized test scores, the admission officers can only rely on high school GPA and extra-curricular activities. Wouldn’t that steer them towards students who come from prestigious schools with reputable extra-curricular programs? Wouldn’t this make it more likely that they will not admit students from less privileged background? Doesn’t it defy the original purpose of being more fair and less biased? It is apparent that this decision is a non-starter and the person who made this decision has never been in the position of a college admission officer.
As Bill Gates said some time ago: “life is not fair, get used to it.” We not only have to get used to it, but also have to get over it. Accept this as a reality of life and work hard to overcome the unfairness, not just sit there and complain and try to get rid of the obstacle. We need more people like Sal Khan who founded Khan Academy to help underprivileged students to achieve their goals (free-of-charge), but we should not appreciate people who have tried to destroy the system for their own political gains.
Mr. Paul Lim
Kaplan SAT and ACT Trainer
MBA, National University of Singapore
B.Sc., Harvey Mudd College
- Over 15+ years of experience in teaching SAT and ACT
- Graduated from a prestigious U.S. college
- Proven record in helping students achieve a perfect subject section score of 800
- Author of a book on effective learning strategies for mastering vocabulary
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