Test Optional?! The Good, Bad, and Ugly!

Test Optional?! The Good, Bad, and Ugly!

Jennifer Kim '21 and Julia Kim '21, Opinions Section Editor and Staff Writer

When COVID-19 started to shut down the nation back in March, students across the nation began to see their scheduled standardized tests be canceled. As the shutdown dragged on, colleges began to feel the pressure to go test-optional for the class of 2021 at the very least. As it became clear that many rising seniors had not gotten the chance to test, and that it would not happen anytime soon, colleges slowly announced their test-optional policies. However, there are other factors to the decisions colleges make. Additionally, there are students who either did or cannot take the tests. As we consider this factor in our individual college processes, views of this test-optional policy diverge. 

The decision to go test-optional can be viewed as a step in the right direction. The SAT has been proven time and time again to be outdated, discriminatory, classist, and going test-optional is a solution to these problems. Especially in a time where testing conditions may be unsafe and families cannot be expected to take on the financial burden of testing, going test-optional is the obvious choice. Not only is preparing for the test in a way that makes you competitive with your peers incredibly costly, but it is also stressful and can negatively impact your mental health. Beyond this, it is a fact that scores lag for members of disadvantaged communities who from birth are not being trained to take this test. The disparity in early education can make all the difference with standardized testing. Going test-optional is the equitable choice and hopefully sets a precedent for all academic institutions of higher education. 

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, however, many have criticized the test-optional policy as benefitting institutions, rather than students. They claim that these institutions attract more applicants, lowering their acceptance rates as they accept the same number of undergraduates. This makes the schools appear more selective, ultimately allowing the institution to profit, rather than giving students a boost. Another point that underlines the disadvantages of test-optional policies is that students who already have strong test scores might not be viewed as strong as candidates as their earlier counterparts. The Class of 2021 has been subject to an unprecedented admissions procedure, which will make their college process more unpredictable than it already has been. 

There are many factors to consider when evaluating the test-optional choice that will be offered this year. Though the policy gets rid of one factor of admission and might benefit an institution, it can certainly be said that it increases equity for underprivileged groups. As the first class is to be assessed under these conditions, there is one question to be asked: will these policies become permanent?

UC Berkeley, a prominent educational institution. Photo courtesy of Harrison Ma.