Justifying the UC Decision to Get Rid of the SAT

 High school students from all over Santa Ana took SAT or PSAT tests for free on a district mandated day in 2017.  Photo Couresy of: SAUSD

High school students from all over Santa Ana took SAT or PSAT tests for free on a district mandated day in 2017. Photo Couresy of: SAUSD

Avery Ngo

Last year, the University of California Board of Regents voted to phase out the use of the SAT and ACT over five years. For those graduating this year or next year, the Napolitano plan makes the test optional. For freshmen who will graduate in 2023 and 2024, the SAT and ACT scores would not be considered as a factor in admissions decisions, and for freshman graduating in 2025, a new tes, developed by the University of California, would be made available. 

UC joins 80 other colleges and universities who will not require standardized test scores for 2021-2022, including Cornell University, all public universities in Oregon, Fordham University, Tufts University, and more. 

This decision has been highly controversial as it has resulted in fierce opposition by College Board test makers, whose corporation makes millions of dollars off a testing monopoly. But despite College Board’s claims in the benefits of standardized testing, in truth, the system should have been revised long before the pandemic occurred. 

According to the Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education’s large-scale regression analysis, race is the strongest predictor of SAT scores. Even after differences in family income and parental education are taken into account, the study finds there remains a prominent residual effect of race. The effects of the study hold implications about the effectiveness of race-neutral policies in college admissions and about the neutrality of the test itself. 

In addition to race, the Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law has confirmed a finding that has been suggested for decades. Rather than test for actual knowledge, the test is a reflection of the students’ socioeconomic status, or, simply, whether or not they can afford tutoring. The SAT and ACT prep industry is worth millions of dollars, and for parents with deep financial pockets, are often willing to invest sometimes more than a grand in tutoring. 

There is even some evidence that points to gender discrimination within standardized testing. Even though females have shown to get better grades than males in both high-school and college math courses, females have been shown to do significantly worse than men in standardized testing in math. When considering the gaps in the scores, Marcia Linn at the University of California, Berkeley, explains the “tendency of girls to be more conscientious than boys.” 

While diligence can help students succeed in class assignments, which results in larger grades, pausing to think questions through can severely disadvantage students in multiple-choice testing, where speed becomes extremely important. The ACT gives students 60 minutes to answer 60 questions, while the SAT, a bit more generous, gives students about 75 to 83 seconds to answer 80 questions.

Interestingly, it is quite well established within the testing community that there has been no study validating the need for students to take tests under such tight time pressures.

And yet, Collegeboard continues to claim that standardized testing is an effective way to demonstrate college readiness. This unsubstantiated claim has tangible consequences. Not only does it serve as a barrier for minorities to enter college, but it helps to promote a detrimental mindset where character, grit, and determination can overcome class privilege to succeed on this test, when in actuality, it’s a elitist charade that remains inaccessible to the poorest of students.