Our test scores don’t define us

January 26, 2018 — by Amy Tang

Junior shares her opinion on over-emphasis of test scores. 

“What did you get on the SAT?”

“I did well.”

“Yeah, but what did you get?”

If I don't tell you my score when you ask, it means that I don't want to. And just because I don't want to tell doesn't necessarily mean that I did badly or that I’m ashamed of what I earned.

After checking my score from the August SAT, I was ecstatic. When I arrived at school, I met one of my friends in the parking lot, and he asked me what I got. Not seeing any reason not to tell, I told him my score and he replied with an enthusiastic “Me too!” We high-fived and went to our respective classes.

But as the day went on and as I ran into classmates and friends who had not done as well as they wanted to, I decided to keep my mouth shut about my score. I knew how disheartening it was to feel incompetent after hearing how certain other people scored on a test. I knew how badly it hurt to feel stupid, despite knowing that I’m not (not in the educational sense anyway).

I thought little of the issue until recently, when PSAT scores came out. Just the other day, my mom asked me, “How did ____ do on her PSAT?” I asked her why she wanted to know, and she replied nonchalantly, “Oh because she got ___ on her SAT. Isn't she good at standardized test taking?”

I wasn’t even surprised that my mom knew the scores of my friends.

It has become a competition for some parents to share their kids’ scores and boast when they score high. But we aren't cattle waiting to be branded by our test scores. Being compared to other students is harmful not only to the person feeling inferior because of a lower score, but also to the person who is being held to an exceptionally high standard. Unfortunately, to many parents, our intelligence is apparently measured by little more than our standardized test scores.

Don't get me wrong, I love my parents. They aren't mean or evil; they just don't see the wrong in classifying students by their test scores, since, according to them, all the parents do it. I’d guess that at least half the school population has had a similar experience either with parents, friends or classmates.

Our standardized test scores are representative of how we scored on one test, how tired or jittery we might have been that one day or how badly we may have had to use the bathroom during a particular portion of the test (writing and language was my downfall).

At the end of the day, our standardized test scores represent four hours of our lives that we spent filling in bubbles. Getting a 1600 on the SAT isn’t akin to winning an Olympic gold medal; true, earning a high score is a feat that should be celebrated, but it shouldn’t be exaggerated to the extent that it is in our school’s culture.

Our test scores don't define us. They don't determine whether we can be considered smart or not. They don't determine how far we’ll go in life. They don't determine our happiness. Above all, our test scores don't determine our worth as people.

The expectation that we have to get a perfect SAT or ACT score, gain acceptance to an Ivy League college and make millions in order to be successful or happy is unreasonable.

Our SAT or ACT scores, our grades, what colleges we get into, are infinitesimal portions of who we are.

So why, when I run into other parents, do they immediately converse about how I’m doing in school or what SAT Subject tests I've taken so far? What is it about the social stigma here that causes students to feel disappointment when they see a score in the 1400s on their CollegeBoard homepage?

It's not a bad thing if you don't have the same test scores that the person next to you does; one score isn't everything. Do the best that you can do, and be proud of it.

 

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