Colleges abolishment on SAT and ACT score on admission

Should colleges abolish reliance on SAT and ACT scores in admissions?

A great deal of controversy has emerged recently concerning whether or not universities and colleges should discontinue relying on SAT or ACT scores during the admission process. Some argue that SAT or ACT scores should be abolished because they play an inaccurate and unjust role in students’ admission to a university or college. The SAT or ACT scores primarily focus on the student’s test-taking abilities but ignore other fundamental attributes such as a great sense of responsibility, good work ethics, and superb knowledge critical for a student to succeed at any level, including obtaining an excellent high school GPA. However, others have argued for the retention of SAT or ACT scores, arguing that the scores are the best relatively low-cost approach for students from disadvantaged communities to demonstrate their readiness for college than taking bassoon lessons or joining a crew team. The opponents and proponents of SAT or ACT scores can be right in their equal measure. However, this essay argues against using SAT or ACT scores for students’ admissions to universities or colleges for multiple valid reasons. SAT/ACT does not measure intelligence and other abilities and is linked mainly to socio-economic status. The questions are culturally biased and favor the whites and wealthy class, promoting social inequalities. Besides, colleges that have made SAT/ACT optional found no significant difference when it is not administered. Other options for predicting college success are available, which are fair and promote equity.

SAT/ACT Does Not Measure Intelligence and Other Abilities Vital For Academic Success

SAT/ACT does not measure intelligence and other abilities fundamental for a student to succeed in a learning environment. The SAT or ACT scores emphases on the student’s test-taking abilities primarily. However, it fails to consider other fundamental attributes, including a great sense of responsibility, good work ethics, and superb knowledge critical for a student to succeed at any level (Frey, 2019). High school GPA is designed to identify students with these attributes; hence provides an excellent basis for determining college admission. A standardized test score may not correctly present the learner’s ability to perform academically in a college setting as it does not provide precise and correct descriptions of students’ academic potential (Frey, 2019). SAT/ACT scores do not portray a student’s complete picture or potential; relatively, the scores judge learners based on test-taking skills and ability to prepare for standardized tests, instead of their entire academic experiences and other extracurricular accomplishments in high school (Syverson, Franks & Hiss, 2018). Hence, assessing students’ test-taking abilities is incorrect in determining their admittance to universities and colleges.

Instead of SAT/ACT, what should be done include restricting the class accepted-early-decision to a maximum 25% leaving 75% of the slots in a class to the massive mainstream students applying for regular admissions. Some colleges and universities, including the University of Duke and Pennsylvania, fill close to 50% of their classes in the early-decision-round, significantly lowering regular decision acceptance rates. That way, schools will be able to regulate admittance effectively. Schools should abolish SAT and ACT and instead adopt AP/IB tests and SAT subject tests. SAT subject tests help colleges and universities put high school grades into perspective during admission. AP/IB exams also demonstrate the student’s ability to manage college-level coursework, preparing the students through advanced courses (Syverson, Franks & Hiss, 2018). SAT/ACT scores are primarily applied to turn away applicants from overrepresented settings; hence are glossily unfair.

The performance in SAT/ACT Frequently Linked to Socio-Economic Status

The performance in SAT/ACT is frequently linked to socio-economic status. The tests are economically driven and mostly favor the wealthy class or those with higher income. Study shows that families spend up to $20,000 or more on SAT prep in New York City alone, with top tutors charging over $600 per hour (Redford & Mulvaney Hoyer, 2017). SAT preparation has to turn out to be a multi-billion business, and only families with higher disposable incomes can afford to spend such vast sums of money to prepare their children for colleges and universities. Kids from wealthy families are much more likely to have higher SAT and ACT scores because they can buy the preparation (Redford & Mulvaney Hoyer, 2017). Many high schools have SAT/ACT prep classes as an option, with test prep and tutoring widely available in person and online. Students are mainly urged to take the SAT/ACT more at least once to attain the best possible scores. One has an opportunity to prepare particularly for what will be tested during a college admission, and the more you practice, the higher the chances to score more (Redford & Mulvaney Hoyer, 2017). But the tutorials and prep tests are not free. Families pay for them, hence, disadvantaging those from low-income families.

Researchers have presented several data showing that wealthier Americans from affluent and educated families often perform better in SAT. Asian Americans and whites, and other students could take pre-SAT in high school before taking the SAT admission. Figure 1 shows how SAT correlates with income.

Figure 1: Correlation between SAT and Income

Source: (Goldfarb, 2014).

The figure demonstrates that SAT scores are greatly linked to family income. For instance, students from families with an average annual income of US$200,000 combined an SAT score of 1714, while those from families earning an average income of US$20,000 had a combined score of 1326. It is evident from the chart that the writing score has the most significant gap, perhaps explaining why there is a push by College Board to drop the essay. Besides, a study has also shown that students with graduate parents scored 300 points higher on SATs than those whose parents only have high school diplomas as shown in figure 2. Indeed, this is the same pattern reflected in the income dynamics, given that college graduates are more likely to earn higher incomes than high school graduates (Goldfarb, 2014). However, the findings also dispel the idea that American students have better opportunities to advance their careers irrespective of family backgrounds.

Figure 2: SAT Scores by Parental Education

Source: (Goldfarb, 2014).

            The findings have one thing in common: SAT mostly favors students from families who can adequately offer their children with quality education and have their kids do as many SAT preps as possible while still in high school. This indicates that SAT favors specific demographics within the American society and should not be used as a level-ground for determining students’ college and university admissions and future life. The standardized score favor students from higher-income families and hurts those from lower-income families who do not have equal opportunities and resources to prepare for these tests. However much our hands cannot be equal under the sun, it is unfair to blatantly disadvantage already economically underprivileged members of the society who have the potential to better their lives through university and college education. 

The SAT/ACT Scores Are Biased, Favor the Wealthy Whites and Promote Inequalities

The SAT/ACT questions are culturally biased, favor wealthy whites, and promote social inequalities. It is not just wealth or minority only that determines SAT scores. The reason wealthier and white students score high in SAT or ACT also correlate with greater vocabulary and academic knowledge, which are factors of where one studied at high school level. The American education system further disadvantages students from already underprivileged families (Redford & Mulvaney Hoyer, 2017). Americans often fail to recall that African-American, Native American, and Latino students went to wholly segregated schools in the 1960s. The schools were funded rates tens of times lower than schools serving the white students and were left out of many higher education institutions (Wells et al. 2005). Even though things have significantly changed with the abolition of segregation in 1970, and minority and white student gaps have narrowed down in the national test scores, with the SAT scores for African-Americans climbed 54 points between the 1970s and 1990s, there are still traces of inequalities in our education systems to date (Wells et al. 2005). The education experiences for minority students in the United States have continued to be significantly separate and unequal. Study shows that about two-thirds of students from minority communities attend elementary, primary, and high schools predominantly minority, primarily located in the central parts of the cities and funded many times lower than neighboring suburban district schools (Wells et al., 2005). The underfunding has a more significant bearing on several dynamics, including teachers’ quality and curriculum coverage.


A recent analysis of data for school financing cases in New York, New Jersey, Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana have established that on a very substantial degree, from curriculum offering to qualifying teachers, schools serving a significant number of students from minority communities have significantly fewer resources those serving primarily white students. Unfair school financing systems cause disproportionate harm to students from minority and economically disadvantaged families (Tsoi-A & Bryant, 2015). Most of these disadvantaged students are primarily concentrated in the Southern states, which have the lowest financing for public schools on an inter-state level. On the intra-state level, large industrial states have the widest disparities in educational financing. In such states, minority and economically underprivileged students are mainly concentrated in property-poor urban districts, characterized by worst educational financing, or in rural districts, which have historically suffered from fiscal inequality (Tsoi-A & Bryant, 2015). This kind of educational system and financing policies disadvantage disadvantaged students, leading to a considerable gap in the type of knowledge and abilities SAT assumes test-takers have.

The only way to improve the performance of students from minority and low-income families on the SAT and overall college and life experience is when we can begin using schools to provide them with the type of abilities, knowledge, and vocabulary their counterparts from white and wealthy families acquire from home and quality schools with quality teachers, starting in early elementary grades through to high schools. That way, we will have an equal system where every student can pass SAT/ACT irrespective of their background.

No Significant Difference between Students Who Took SAT Tests and Those Do Do Not

            Colleges where SAT/ACT is optional, have reported a diverse educational environment, and the success rates of their students are similar to those that rely on the use of SAT/ACTs as the primary admission decision. One of the most extensive studies on the impact of SATs led by William C. Hiss and published by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) found nearly undistinguishable academic performance by students who took the SAT or ACTs as a part of the college admission and those who did not work at test-optional colleges. The study, which incorporated 123,000 students drawn from 33 universities and colleges of varying types across the United States, established that high school grades are a more significant determinant for student access (Syverson, Franks & Hiss, 2018). The research found that students with lower high school GPAs but higher SAT/ACT scores received lower college grades. On the contrary, students with higher college grades but low SAT/ACT scores still ended up scoring higher college grades (Syverson, Franks & Hiss, 2018). On the same note, study shows that more colleges are transitioning to test-optional admissions in recent years.

The latest report by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (NCFOT), dated December 8, 2021, lists 1815 plus accredited four-year colleges and universities with SAT/ACT optional testing policies 2022 fall admission (NCFOT, 2021).However, as the number of universities and colleges switching to SAT/ACT testing policies continues to grow, there have been many speculations concerning whether such institutions are paying the price for the move regarding students’ academic performance. Many colleges that have gone test-optional argue that the impact of the test-optional policy on academic performance is so insignificant to be trivial. Many have argued for the thesis or idea that test-optional policies help to diversify the pool of college applicants. For instance, the study by William C. Hiss and colleges as published by NACAC found that students who were admitted to colleges and universities minus submitting test scores were more likely than those who submitted the test scores be the first their families to go to university or college, Pell Grant recipient, female, or non-white (Syverson, Franks & Hiss, 2018).  Based on income, students from the lowest-income families were more likely to apply without SAT/ACT scores than those from higher-income families. In terms of performance, some students who did not submit the test scores performed well than those who submitted the scores (Syverson, Franks & Hiss, 2018).  

            The new findings suggest that many more universities and colleges can adopt the SAT/ACT optional policies without any fear of the impact of academic performance. Adopting SAT/ACT optional policies may be effective and suitable now when several concerns are being raised about “under-matching,” the notion that many students are failing to get a slot in their most preferred colleges at which their high school GPAs qualifies them for admission (Syverson, Franks & Hiss, 2018).  A 2016 study sponsored by Harvard Graduate School of Education and supported by over 80 universities and colleges resolved that standardized testing or SAT/ACT scores should be non-compulsory and deemphasized during college admissions. The report asserted that college admission could convey that intellectual and ethical engagement, particularly a concern for others and the common good, are critical in society. However, the current admission system is designed to communicate that students’ achievement is more important than their responsibility to society and the common good (Weissbourd et al., 2016). To encourage intellectual and ethical development through college admission, we must design a system that takes up other related goals besides a mere test score.

            We must acknowledge that students vary in their quest for academic success. Some students come from communities where lack of opportunities and academic resources is rampant. However, others come from communities and families where the pressure to perform academically and join selective colleges is high, the compelling emotional toll on the students, squeezing up the energy and time such students have contributed or consider others (Weissbourd et al. 2016). As highlighted earlier, pressure to succeed academically in high in wealthy families. Students from such backgrounds spend more time and resources on SAT prep than learners from low-income families. Those from low-income families without resources to spend on SAT prep may be taking up other social responsibilities after classes, and as such, using SAT to test the college success of students from the two diverse settings will automatically be favoring that students from wealthy families. 

            A fair and healthy college admission process should balance between intellectual and ethical responsibilities, simultaneously rewarding students who demonstrate faithful citizenship, decreasing unnecessary pressure associated with academic performance, refining achievement in a manner that enhances greater equality and access for economically diverse scholars.

There Are Better Predictors of University and College Success That Can Be Adopted

Having explored several reasons against using SAT/ACT scores for admission, it is also vital to highlight some of the options that have been found better predict University and College success that can be used in place of test scores. One of the claims by universities and colleges that have adopted test-optional is that there are several better methods to predict student performance at a college. The most cited method uses high school GPA, a better predictor of university and college success than both the SAT or ACTs (Syverson, Franks & Hiss, 2018). Other universities and colleges prefer IB or AP tests, arguing that they better reflect what students have learned in high school (Syverson, Franks & Hiss, 2018). Some colleges have made Standardized SAT/ACT optional demands for SAT Subject tests as they are perceived to highlight the students’ academic success. Some colleges, such as Oregon University, have begun adopting “holistic review,” which gives a more accurate representation of the applicants (Syverson, Franks & Hiss, 2018). A holistic review considers the student’s strengths in high school, based on course work, overall academic performance, unique talents, extracurricular interests, and personality (Wall et al., 2015). Combining these factors gives an accurate picture of the student than just a test score.

Overall, this paper argues against using SAT/ACT for college and university admissions for varieties of valid reasons. The researcher has proven that SAT/ACT does not measure intelligence and other abilities fundamental for college and general life success. The method is mainly linked to socio-economic status and favors students from high-income families than those from low-income. The SAT/ACT questions are also culturally biased and favor wealthy families and whites, promoting social inequalities. Besides, colleges that have made SAT/ACT optional found no significant difference when not administered. Other options and predicting college success are available, which are fair and promote equity.