Starting in March, prospective Longhorns will have to take the revamped SAT. Although arguments against standardized testing rage on, the SAT has been vital to the college admissions process for decades. With the new changes, the test will provide an even better prediction of college success while reducing income bias.
A common argument against the SAT and standardized testing as a whole is that the test is too stressful and that the SAT favors students who cope well in high-stress environments. But this argument approaches the admissions process too simplistically.
A 2013 article from the New York Times divides students into two groups — warriors and worriers. Warriors perform well in stressful situations, but worriers plan things more effectively over time. In this context, the SAT favors warriors; however, the SAT is only one piece of a holistic review process. Class rank also contributes to a student’s application, and, overall, GPA favors worriers instead.
When people argue against the SAT, they indirectly discredit the abilities of warrior-type students. Automatic admission cut-offs at certain class percentiles help students with high GPAs, but this sense of safety doesn’t exist for high SAT scores.
Biology freshman Chris Chiu said he attended a very competitive high school. Although he didn’t meet the top seven percent mark for automatic admission, he said he thinks his high SAT score helped him get accepted.
“Your class rank lets you know how well you’re doing at your school, however, not every school is at the same level of competition,” Chiu said. “A standardized test such as the SAT puts everyone on an even playing field and gives students like me, who were not auto admit, a chance to be considered.”
Another argument against the SAT is that students of higher socioeconomic statuses have more access to learning materials and test-prep programs. While this theory appears to make sense, it doesn’t hold weight in the real world.
Gary Lavergne, director of admissions research and policy analysis at UT, said that expensive test-prep programs don’t produce a significant effect on test scores.
“I’m a former high school teacher myself, and I find it offensive that people think they can spend money over a week to increase their test scores,” Lavergne said. “There is no substitute for good teaching, rigorous courses and preparing yourself for four years as opposed to a weekend SAT preparation camp.”
With the recent changes to the SAT, the College Board pushes that skills aren’t bought — they’re learned. The College Board has expanded access to preparatory materials by offering free practice through Khan Academy. This reduces the socioeconomic bias in test scores, and increases educational opportunities in low-income schools.
Overall, the SAT persists as a solid measure of student capability, and it should remain a requirement at UT and colleges all over the nation.
Chan is a journalism freshman from Sugar Land. Follow Chan on Twitter @BenroyChan.