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Opinion: Some universities are dropping the SAT, but does it really matter?

Tamlynn Torchon

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It’s been reported that several ivy league universities are dropping their required SAT and ACT writing scores, opting for an essay portion graded by the university. This list includes Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Duke, Princeton and more. The reasons behind this decision vary, but the financial difficulty is the most concerning aspect.

Universities are making those scores optional rather than mandatory, which is shocking. Are standardized tests really useful? Would it really matter if universities simply rendered them optional? This debate is not new, but it is intense. Let’s attempt to understand its history and relevance.

Let’s focus on theScholastic Aptitude Test, more commonly known as the SAT. If you’re familiar with the American educational system, you’ve probably heard of (or taken) the SAT. Conventionally, this standardized test has been crucial for higher education. Many students rack their brains to score the highest and raise their chances at academic success.

Many SAT opponents look back at history to justify its repeal in higher education. The SAT was invented by Dr. Carl Campbell Brigham, a Princeton professor. This test traces its origins from the Binet Tests by Alfred Binet, used to spot learning disabilities.

Originally, the SAT was meant for the military during World War I. The test was approved by Robert Yerkes, who also was part of the IQ testing movement, which was rooted in (Anglo-Saxon/Nordic) eurocentricity and eugenics.

It created metrics to evaluate intellectual superiority, and to keep out other immigrants from learning institutions. It wasn’t until 1938 that Henry Chancey presented the SAT as a standardized test to members of the College Board.

Unfortunately, the SAT also served as a determinant of sterilization from the 1920s to the mid-1970s. Those victims were mostly blacks with “low IQs.” Though Dr. Brigham retracted those “findings,” the test was already implemented and normalized throughout the country.

Supporters of the SAT will say that those days are behind us, and the test today does not serve any of those purposes. This test makes things even for everyone. It is also a good predictor of academic success and perseverance of students.

There are still important unanswered questions. Can numbers really predict your capabilities, motivation and success? Some say that standardized tests help put everyone on equal ground, but does it take into account the highly variable socioeconomic environments of students?

Many studies suggest that standardized tests do no such thing because intellect may vary between cultures, circumstances, specialization, different ways of learning and so on. The same goes for success: it does not have one face, and it may mean different things for different people. That’s why some institutions have made standardized tests optional.

Also, the SATs are expensive. There’s an argument that perhaps the SATs were used to determine personal income because there is a strong correlation between high scores and high income. This isn’t to say that students from low-income families do not score high as well, but they tend to score lower.

As of July 13, students demanded that the College Board recount the scores because they did not understand how they scored lower after so much hard work. The June SAT is different than the October one, but it is reported to have become easier.

What is the issue, then? More points were taken off on wrong answers due to a statistical process of “equating,” which is curving scores to make it equivalent to previous ones. A petition has received 20,000 signatures because those scores can determine scholarships and college acceptance.

When situations like this one occur, it is a bit optimistic to hear that universities are dropping standardized tests. Of the universities that still require the SAT, perhaps some will reconsider.

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Opinion: Some universities are dropping the SAT, but does it really matter?