Standardized Testing: Worth it?

Patrick Restuccia and Shane O'reilly, Author

It is commonly recommended that high school students applying to college take both of the optional standardized tests: the SAT and ACT. Many high school students feel an immense amount of pressure from the school, their guidance counselors, and their parents to take one or both of these exams. Parents of high school students play a large role in the decision to take the SAT or ACT even though they aren’t the ones taking the test.  The reason why is that they believe their student needs to use their test scores in order to have a good chance of being accepted to a college or university.

Although taking these tests and receiving good scores can sometimes boost your chance into college, they are becoming less and less necessary when applying to schools today. High school senior Marty Noone and History teacher Mr. Ames both agreed that the SAT and ACT are becoming “less important” in the college admissions process. However, the ACT and SAT are very different tests. The SAT has much denser questions and requires more in depth reading while the ACT requires you to move through questions quickly and answer more questions in a longer amount of time. SAT scores are a better indicator of skills students actually need to succeed in college and their careers while the ACT simply reflects on what was learned in high school. Similarly, Massachusetts schools require students in grades 3-10 to take a standardized test called MCAS to measure how many students are meeting the expectations for their grade level. 


All of these tests serve their own unique purpose of measuring students’ academic ability. But the newest standardized tests don’t tell the truth about whether kids are “smart” or not.  They are not as important because they only show a small part of the students’ full abilities. As a result, most colleges have become test optional. This seems to be growing trend especially due to the pandemic putting many students in a difficult situation where they did not learn as thoroughly and cannot perform to their best ability on the standardized tests. Now, with the amount of colleges that are opting to make submitting test scores optional, this leaves the question up to you, the individual, rather than pressure from your school and parents. The decision should be completely up to the student, as the student is the one taking the test. 


There are many reasons why some students who want to go to college shouldn’t waste their time taking the SAT and the ACT. Many students struggle with test anxiety and go through a lot of emotional stress during big exams in school. You really can’t blame these students for being so anxious during these tests; tests are built to make kids struggle. Furthermore, the creators of the SAT use a tactic that constrains the amount of time alloted for the exam to limit students taking the tests to a certain amount of minutes per question if they want to finish in the time given. Researchers estimate between about 10% and 40% of all students experience some sort of test anxiety during the SAT or ACT.  The reason why it is important for students to not feel anxious during a test is because you are supposed to show what you know, but when you have such a high level of anxiety, it is very hard to think straight. “When my hands start shaking, palms get sweaty, and foot starts to tap during a test, that’s when I know I already failed” says a student from Ipswich High School who wishes to remain anonymous. This student admitted to having bad test anxiety, and they have been accepted and are going college without having taken the SAT or ACT.  They do not at all regret having chosen not to take the SAT or ACT.  The student states, “Why put myself through a premeditated anxiety attack that I know is going to happen during the test, it’s not worth it to waste my time on one little test that only measures one concentrated or one specific area, and is supposed to prove that I am smart or not?” This student clearly has strong feelings about test anxiety and standardized test taking in general.

College Board Has Got to Do Better – The X-RAY

In summary, varying opinions exist on the topic of standardized testing. However, it is clear that SAT and ACT scores are becoming less important in trying to plan a future for yourself.  These tests can strengthen the application of some students, but there is no point in submitting a score that is low or does not accurately reflect your academic ability. For these reasons, most colleges and universities are switching to test-optional admissions policies.