Less emphasis on SAT required to decrease stress levels, raise grades

October 31, 2008 — by Maggie Lin

As high school students enter their junior year, dread of late nights filled with SAT practice exams is a primary concern. With a recent announcement by colleges across America, however, relief from this source of stress may be on the horizon.

A yearlong study led by the dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard, William R. Fitzsimmons , has concluded that the reasoning test is not an accurate depiction of a student’s ability. Harvard, along with other universities, has announced that in the near future, they plan to begin placing less emphasis on standardized testing when reviewing applications. This decision was made after consideration of statements released by well-known groups, like the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), which stated SAT reasoning and ACT scores do not fairly determine a student’s likelihood of success in college.

Proof that the NACAC has diagnosed the effectiveness of standardized testing can be seen at Saratoga High. Students with strong SAT and ACT scores do not always have grades that reflect the same high academic standard. In the same way, students who perform badly on standardized tests may have strong grades.

The inaccuracy in these results at Saratoga High may be attributed to the test prep classes all over the Bay Area. Students who have attended SAT classes for longer amounts of time are accustomed to the test, and learn ways to “beat” the SAT. In contrast, students who do not take practice exams or classes before sometimes perform poorly on the SAT Reasoning exam, a test that is heavily weighted when considering college applications. Some have also argued that the formatting of this test is not a measure of student aptitude, but of how well teens can test under time pressure.

The SAT reasoning test is also a poor gauge of ability. The Reasoning test does not align with the state standards that teachers are required to teach, so students are taking a test that does not stress what they are taught. On the other hand, the SAT II subject tests focuses on specific subjects and tests in detail, showing a more accurate view of a student’s knowledge. The ACT better than the Reasoning test because it
includes a section on science.

With less emphasis placed on the SAT, students will also have more time to focus on their classes. In placing more importance on school grades, colleges will help high school students learn useful study habits before college, something that the SAT does not achieve. Students can also use the time they would have spent studying for the exam to engage in extracurricular activities and community service.

Minimizing the importance is just a step ahead of making the SAT optional, which major institutions, such as Harvard, are considering. If this positive step happens, high school students will be more able to pursue their passions and enjoy their last two years of high school.

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