To SAT or Not to SAT

Are the SATs really good intelligence measurers? What do students of Hastings High School have to say?


Mamie Rushkoff, Managing Editor

Your parents probably remember studying for the SAT or ACT, taking one version, and submitting their scores to colleges. In the last year and a half, though, SAT and ACT scores have become significantly less important. Because of Covid-19 , most schools changed their requirements to be test-blind or test-optional. 

While this decision was driven largely by Covid-safety, the idea of getting rid of SATs/ACTs as a measure of college-readiness has been going on for quite some time. Many critics speculate that the SAT and ACT do not measure intellectual ability. When more and more prestigious schools are test blind and test-optional, it seems somewhat silly to spend a long time studying for a test that colleges may not even look at. While the class of ‘22 and ‘21 did not have to submit their scores, will that be the same for future classes? And are standardized tests  necessary?

What do the students think?

60 students at Hastings High school took a survey about the SAT and ACT. Results showed that only 30% of students who took the test decided to submit their scores, and the remaining 70% of students did not submit their scores. Similarly, students reported putting in less effort when they found out that many colleges did not require test scores. 

It is worth defining the difference between test-optional and test-blind because they are very different. Test-blind admissions means that the college doesn’t look at any scores, which makes GPA and extracurriculars even more important.  Test-optional refers to schools where the SAT and ACT are not mandatory for applications, and schools can decide whether or not they are test-optional.

Results showed that about 95% of students thought the SAT/ACT was not a good way to measure one’s intellectual ability. Senior Elizabeth Morrison said that the SAT is “literally about how to master tricks behind each question.” Indeed, test prep companies show students how the standardized tests have a few ways to solve each problem, and the methods often focus only on test-taking strategies rather than actual content. As Gigi Richer said, “it’s just a measure of how well you were able to perform in one specific instance.” The test is a mind game. 

What will happen to colleges?

If people only apply to schools that are test-optional, test-mandatory schools will face many changes. Less and less people in Hastings High school are submitting their scores. Senior Liam Shanley predicted, “Test-optional admissions are going to become very common.” During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, students often could not go to testing sites and physically take the SAT or ACT. Although students can take the test now, many are choosing not to. A recent national study shows that only 43% of students submitted scores in 2021.  When students have the choice, many would choose to go to a solid school without submitting their SAT/ACT over going to a school of the same quality or better that requires scores. What does this mean for prestigious schools or test-mandatory schools? 

In one scenario, colleges that remain test-mandatory will have fewer students apply, resulting in an increase in the acceptance rate and decrease in the student body. Will they remain test-mandatory? If colleges remain test-optional or test-blind for years to come, test-mandatory colleges will probably have to make a change to their application process.