PSU Dorm of

Making The Case For
The Abolishment of Standardized Testing
Kimberly Shelton April 2014

In the first week of March College Board, the organization responsible for
the creation and distribution of the standardized test known as the SAT,
announced a fundamental rethinking and reorganization of the test that has been
used for college acceptances for generations. The SAT, which used to include
three sections composed of writing, reading, and mathematics, and would
penalize students for being wrong, is now being reformed to realign with work
being taught to students in today’s high school classrooms. Changes to the SAT
will include omitting the penalty for wrong answers, cutting obscure vocabulary
words from the examination, and making the essay portion of the test optional,
which would bring the test back to a grading scale of 1,600 points rather than a
three part test graded on a 2,400 point scale, each part consisting of a maximum
of 800 possible points.

Last year alone, the number of students taking the standardized test
known as the ACT surpassed those of SAT takers by 2,000 students.
The ACT, a
test designed to incorporate science, math, and reading sections for a total of 36
possible points, was titled a more “appropriate test” in regards to following the
typical high school curriculum. In other words, more people were inclined to take
the ACT over the SAT, because they believed it better embodied what they were
being taught in school. The article written by the New York Times on the reforms
being made by College Board compared the ACT to the SAT by stating: “the SAT
has lost ground to the ACT, which is based more directly on high school
curriculums and is now taken by a slightly higher number of students.”

The SAT and ACT combined standardized tests were created as a means of
gauging a students ability to perform in their first year of college. The better a
student performs on the test, the more likely they are to succeed in their first year
of college. Not surprisingly, there is also a strong correlation between a student’s
standardized test score and the colleges they are likely to be admitted to. Looking
at the chart seen on the right, grades in college prep courses were ranked the
most important factor for college acceptances, as 83.4 % of college admissions
staff said that those were the first credentials they looked at in prospective
However, standardized test scores came in a close third in the most
important factors influencing college
admissions, with 59.3% of universities
saying that test scores were one of the
more important deciding factors.

What this means is that colleges and
higher educational institutions still put
a large emphasis on standardized test
scores when making their college

While the SAT and ACT
standardized testing systems are a
means of gauging a students ability to
perform in an academic setting to some
extent, it is impossible to create one
single test to encompass the curriculum
and understanding of all students across
the nation. While standardized testing may be impossible to ban entirely due to
the diversity of educational systems and higher education institutions throughout
America, the test themselves do not tell us anything about a student’s intelligence
level or future performance rates. As a result, no amount of reforms made to the
test will fix the problem of accurately gauging a student’s knowledge. Instead,
standardized testing messes with higher education curriculums and faculty
teaching methods, and puts families of high school students in a strong financial
bind due to private tutoring and test prep. The end goal, therefore, should be to
phase out these tests and effectively put more emphasis on extracurricular
activities and high school GPAs to more accurately measure future academic

The Financial Drain of Standardized Testing

One of the key issues that standardized
testing brings to families across the nation,
apart from the apparent stress of college
acceptance, is the financial strain. Kaplan
test prep services and other testing
companies average $1,100 per class, while
private SAT and ACT tutors can charge
anywhere between $100-200 dollars an
It is estimated that two million
students spend on average a total of $2.5
billion a year on standardized test prep and
Not only this, but between test fees,
late registration fees, cancellation fees, and
personalized score reports, the test itself can end up costing anywhere between
$50 to $100 dollars per student.
However, paying for test prep at this point in
Figure 1: Graph Of The Most Important Factors
Affecting College Admissions Decisions
Source: Statistics taken from Brody, Blair, “SAT
Tests: Another Drain on the Family Budget.” The
Fiscal Times, May. 1, 2013.

Source: Graph recreated from Kanslea, College Application
Data, http://blog.studentadvisor.com/College-

Figure 2. Statistics Regarding the Amount
of Money Spent Annually on Standardized
Test Prep
time is not only worth it, but necessary, simply because the competition is doing

The reality of the situation, however, is that all this money is spent on test
prep so that in the future, parents can pay for the real education, and rack up
serious debt thanks to college tuition payments. This is when standardized
testing becomes a double standard, because families that can’t afford to pay for
the tutoring are put at a severe disadvantage for lack of test prep and subsequent
risk of not having adequate test scores for college admissions. At the same time,
those that scavenge to pay for tutoring are then faced with the next financial
problem of trying to pay their college tuition bill. In studies which controlled for
parental income and education, the results showed that the SAT was not accurate
in predicting freshman GPA, concluding that “if you’re rich, you can buy your
kids a higher SAT score”.
The solution to the problem here would be to
eliminate standardized testing entirely, in order to get rid of the financial
disadvantage that people may encounter when paying for standardized testing
prep and private tutoring. What the writer of the study, Charles Murray,
ultimately concluded was that the SAT is not a test to gauge aptitude or
intelligence of students at all. Rather, it is a cultural bias based exam, designed by
College Board in order to make a profit. Murray even stated in his article,
“Abolish the SAT”, that “College Board was run by people who were eager to
demonstrate their own progressive credentials. They ran from the concept of
aptitude as the Florentines fled the plague.”
This further demonstrates the
SAT’s incapability to measure student intelligence, and supports the idea that it is
instead kept around in order for College Board to bring in money, and for rich,
privileged families to pay for a leg up in their child’s college admittance

The Division of Class Status: What Does It Mean To Take
the SAT?

In an effort to abolish the SAT entirely, Charles Murray, the man who’s
SAT’s scores got him into Harvard, argues that the SAT, which was designed to
help colleges and students predict their freshman grade point average, was
proven to have no affect on predicting freshman collegiate performance. The
exam, who’s initials stand for “Scholastic Aptitude Test”, was meant to measure
aptitude, defined by the dictionary as “inherent ability”.
Murray argues that
nowadays, the SAT is not at all accurate at gauging a students aptitude, but rather
places emphasis on a student’s background and financial situation. He further
argues that while the SAT helped him in the 1960’s to be recognized as a man
with potential from an unknown town, the SAT in modern society is “slanted in
favor of privileged children—“a wealth test,” as Harvard law professor Lani
Guinier calls it.”
Today, the SAT is not a measure of a student’s ability to
perform, but a measure of how much money a student can spend on test prep, or
an education focused on preparing students to take the test for college
admissions. Going more into depth on the subject, Murrary examined the
situation of students from various towns and locations. The results of his findings
demonstrated that, if a town had a lot of college bound students, it could shape
the curriculum to a more “teach to these tests” approach.
In other words, in
towns and locations of upscale or middle class families that breed their children
to go to college, you are more likely to find higher test scores, simply because
high schools are more inclined to design their curriculum and mold their
students to perform proficiently on college entrance exams. Similarly, areas of
low income families tend not to have the motivation or resources required to
“teach to the test”, and tend to average lower test scores as a result.
What one
can conclude from looking at these statistics is that college aptitude tests are no
longer about “aptitude”, but rather socioeconomic status and subsequent location
relative to school systems of “privilege”.

The Consequences of Pressure of Performance

Not only has the SAT been proven ineffective in determining freshman
performance and is known to have a bias in the areas of the socioeconomic and
educational background of students, the pressure to perform on tests has pushed
students to extreme measures outside of excessive payments on test prep.
Pressure to perform well on the SAT has lead teachers to replace good teaching
practices with a “teach to the test” approach. That is, SAT’s have led to "declines
in teaching higher-order thinking, in
the amount of time spent on complex
assignments, and in the amount of
high cognitive content in the
This teaching method
has been proven to lower the amount
of critical thinking being done in
high schools and universities
throughout America. Aptitude and
achievement tests among high
school students has also lead to an
increased rate of cheating, with 59%
of high school students polled
admitting to cheating on one of these
tests within the academic school
An SAT cheating scandal involving dozens of high school students was
even exposed in early 2012, in which 15 students were accused of paying
individuals between $500 and $3,600 to take the test for them, prompting
College Board to make it a requirement that students bring their ID’s to future
administered tests.
In addition, standardized testing causes severe stress in
younger students, as the “Stanford-9 exam comes with instructions on what to do
with a test booklet in case a student vomits on it."
In this case, the requirement
of standardized testing is proving more of a disadvantage than an advantage to
student performance and sanity, and students and educators alike are oftentimes
left under pressure to enhance their performance and score rather than simply
showcase their critical thinking capabilities.
Figure 3. Statistics of the Amount of High School
Students Polled Who Admitted to Cheating on a Test
Source: Statistics taken from Kulow, Jane, Looking at the
SATs: Prep, Cheating, Why Take Them Anyway?, College
Admissions, http://drstrangecollege.wordpress.com/2011/


Provisions Being Made: Where Do We Go From Here?

As previously mentioned, reforms to the college aptitude test known as the
SAT have included abolishing the penalty for wrong answers, eliminating
unnecessary vocabulary words to replace them with words more commonly used
in college courses, and making the essay portion of the SAT test optional.

However, while these reforms have been made in order to realign with school
curriculums, the ultimate consequences are still the same. It is a still a test that
students need to perform well on, and one in which parents will pay good money
for better results, while teachers will shape the curriculum to better prepare their
students with good test taking strategies. While the shaping of the curriculum
may require less work with the new reforms, and the tutors and test prep services
may no longer need to teach obscure vocabulary to its students, test preparation
is still required for students who want to obtain good results, and that means
paying good money for schools that teach good test taking strategies, or private
tutors willing to teach kids the short cuts to performing well.

What Should Be Done?

Students are always told that the key to success involves critical thinking,
communication, and leadership skills. From studies shown on the effectiveness of
SAT and ACT scores, standardized testing does not only fail at predicting an
individual’s freshman grade point average, it demonstrates a lack of critical
thinking and subsequent increase in a “teaching to the test” mindset. Not only
this, it causes an increase in cheating and stress amongst teens, and has given rise
to a lot of financial troubles for families who believe that the only way to
guarantee a place at a well respected institution is to perform adequately on
standardized tests, which only comes from proper test prep tutoring. However,
from what jobs and employers claim they seek from individuals coming out of
institutions, such as leadership or communication, that money and time invested
in preparing students to take standardized tests would be better spent getting
students involved in extracurricular activities. This would allow students to invest
their time in something their passionate in, and allow them to gain the vital social
skills necessary for the working world.

An article recently published in Forbes magazine stated that the top three
skills employers looked for the most in employees was “the ability to work in a
team, ability to make decisions and solve problems, and the ability to plan,
organize, and prioritize work”.
The only skill listed that could potentially pertain
to good test preparation and test taking skills was listed at number six and was
the “ability to analyze quantitative data”, which could only really be considered
relevant in the mathematics section of the SAT or ACT standardized test.

Similarly, in a 2011 survey of corporate recruiters, 86% of them also stated that
communication was well and above the most important skill for potential
employees to have, and that it lied well above the next best skill. When asked
what needed to be changed about
schools to meet employee’s
needs, the overwhelming
response was that practical
experience was vital in the hiring
Therefore, students
would be better off investing their
time and money in activities and
programs that enhance these
skills, rather then wasting their
effort on test prep that will not
prepare them for real world
Furthermore, in
another study conducted by the
Society for Human Resource
Management, the results showed
that 47% of employers believe
adaptability and flexibility is the
most important skill to have in
the workforce, with skills like
mathematics and writing, that
would typically be taught by the
SAT or ACT tests, falling to 20%
and 7% in terms of importance.
However, one must keep in mind
that the reforms being made to
the SAT have now made the writing portion of the test optional, so even this
critical skill is no longer being taught to students during the test. The chart on the
right ultimately summarizes the most important skills in the workplace as
deemed by recruiters, with “test taking ability” not making it on the list, but
adaptability, critical thinking, and leadership skills taking the top three spots.
Today, society does not ask you how well you performed on your SAT, but they
will ask you what you are passionate about and involved in, and how you
showcase your knowledge outside of the classroom setting. Because of this,
colleges and universities should place less emphasis on standardized tests, and
more emphasis on being involved outside of school, as it is those activities which
allow students to gain the social and communication skills that are vital for a
leadership or employment position in the workplace. At the end of the day, we
spend all of our time in school in order to learn about something we’re passionate
in, and get a job in something related to that passion. However, if employers in
the work places are looking to hire employees with skills more focused on social
adaptabilities, then more time and money should be spent preparing students for
future employment, and less on understanding the easiest test taking methods to
get the top score. Standardized tests should be abolished so that ultimately,
students can invest themselves in something their passionate in, rather than
using their valuable resources on tests of “aptitude” that will not matter in the

Figure 4. Statistics Taken from A Survey of
Employers Regarding the Importance of Various
Skills in the Workplace
Source: Graph recreated from statistics found in Society for
Human Resource Management, Critical Skills Needs and
Resources for the Changing Workforce, The Wall Street Journal,
(June, 2008).


Lewin, Tamar, “A New SAT to Realign
With Schoolwork,” New York Times,
Mar. 4, 2014

Brody, Blair, “SAT Tests: Another Drain
on the Family Budget.” The Fiscal
Times, May. 1, 2013.

Lewin, “A New SAT.”

Kanslea, Megan, College Application
Data, College Admissions Statistics

Kanslea, College Application Data,

The College Helper, Do SAT Prep
Courses Really Help?,

Brody, “SAT Tests.”

Brody, “SAT Tests.”

Murray, Charles, “Abolish the SAT,”
The American, July 2017

Murray, “Abolish the SAT.”

Murray, “Abolish the SAT.”

Murray, “Abolish the SAT.”

Murray, “Abolish the SAT.”

Murray, “Abolish the SAT.”

Murray, “Abolish the SAT.”

Standardized Testing, Pro-Con,

Kulow, Jane, Looking at the SATs:
Prep, Cheating, Why Take Them
Anyway?, College Admissions,

Anderson, Jenny, “SAT and ACT to
Tighten Rules after Cheating Scandal,”
New York Times, Mar. 27, 2012.


Lewin, “A New SAT”

Adams, Susa, “The 10 Skills Employees
Most Want,” Forbes
ms/2013/10/11/ the-10-skills-

Adams, “The 10 Skills.”

Holland, Jenny, “Why Johnny Can’t
Write and Why Employers Are Mad,”
NBC News, Nov. 11, 2013

Adams, “The 10 Skills.”

Society for Human Resource
Management, Critical Skills Needs and
Resources for the Changing Workforce,
The Wall Street Journal,
%20survey%20report.pdf (June, 2008).