The Fall of the SAT: How a Century-Old Test Has Passed its Prime

Sanwi Sarode, Staff Writer

When COVID-19 began to spread across the United States, many students found it difficult to take the SAT and other standardized tests due to limited testing space and a decrease in testing opportunities. Thus, many colleges made the decision to go test-optional, meaning that students are not required to submit their SAT scores with the rest of their application. But even before COVID-19, many were questioning whether taking the SAT was worth all the attention it was given — and they were right to question its importance. Not only are SATs a source of stress, they can also prevent colleges from diversifying their schools. SATs should no longer be a staple of admissions.

There’s a saying that if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. The same concept applies to the SAT — expecting every student to be good at standardized tests is unreasonable. According to a 2016 Los Angeles Times article, students who excel in areas such as music, public speaking or time management cannot exhibit these skills through a standardized test. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and putting such a large emphasis on the SAT causes unnecessary stress and anxiety for students. That stress only builds as a student’s high school career progresses.

The SAT puts immense pressure on students to get good scores. This pressure can make students almost obsessed with their scores, which causes unnecessary stress and mental health issues. According to ReclaimSchools, an organization set up to support campaigns for progressive and socially responsible education, eight out of ten teachers report an increase in stress and anxiety among students in the time leading up to the SAT. Removing the SAT from college applications could ease this already heavy burden on students.

According to a college prep organization called Ivywise, an obsession with test scores could also shift a student’s focus away from parts of the increasingly popular holistic review of college applications: grades, student interests and success in college-prep classes. In preparation for the SAT, students often lose focus on these factors.

By basing so much on the SAT, admissions officers are unable to see the talent of kids who specialize in more diverse skills. According to an Ivywise article, students who receive poor test scores are often discouraged from applying to prestigious schools. When the SAT is removed from the equation, the application pool at these colleges becomes more diverse in a variety of areas.

A U.S. News article showed that there is a notable correlation between family income and SAT performance: the higher a family’s income, the higher the score on the SAT. More affluent families have the advantage of being able to afford different levels of tutoring and practice. In addition, students from low-income families have more important things to take care of than the SAT, such as working to financially support their families. It stands to reason that getting rid of the SAT would open more doors for students with low-income families.

Now more than ever before is the time to get rid of this roadblock. Many colleges are already becoming test-optional — permanently. With the fall of the SAT, we could see a huge increase in college diversity and overall student wellness.