For more than 6 months, each Wednesday my ACT tutor has sat with me at my dining room table teaching me to guess the same letter when I run out of time, and how to get around reading passages by looking at the answer choices first. In other words, how to beat the test at its own game. On one hand, this strategy is what is getting me closer to the score that will get me in the running for my top schools. Yet, at the same time, I spend my free time figuring out how to beat a test rather than learning anything that will benefit my life.
1. “Winning” this game is based greatly on economic status. Tutoring companies can cost upwards of $200 for a single session. Prep Scholar reports that “ACT scores correlate strongly with parental income. This means that students with wealthy parents are more likely to do well on the ACT.”
2. The test requires a regurgitation of information that will never be used again. This expands on this reoccurring idea that this test is simply spewing out information, that students with the “best” tutors will excel on. Not only does this add to discrepancies in test scores, but it shows colleges who is most capable of spitting out information- information that does not measure a student’s success.
3. The tears never end and often, this does not lead to desired scores. On top of AP and honors classes in which success is measured based on hard work, which translates into positive grades, time junior year is limited. Students spend an absurd amount of emotional energy being put down repeatedly by scores that do not reflect practicing every day and doing all that is in their power.
4. Upwards of one million student’s take the exact same test each year. If the human brain is not fully developed until age 25, and still then no two people are alike, how can two utterly different students be expected to think and respond to the same questions and both reach a level of success? Student 1 wants to be a doctor. Student 2 wants to be an artist. Both need to know if line 4 should be placed before line 3, after line 5, or stay where it is.
5. I am creative. This test does not test creativity. I am “street smart.” This test does test smarts outside of the ability to fill in a small bubble with a number two pencil. Standardized tests do not test anything outside of English and Mathematics, denying millions of students with alternate strengths the opportunity to excel. Too many colleges preach that at their core, they look at the “whole student.” However, in reality, letting a score on a standardized test define one’s worthiness and acceptance into a college is belittling and inaccurate.
6. There is a large difference between knowledge (what we know) and wisdom (the application of what we know). Standardized testing focuses simply on knowledge, but does not include any form of wisdom which is eventually what will lead to success. After I will have taken the dreadful test four times, I can guarantee both colleges and my tutor, that knowing how many hamsters Juaquim tested in his experiment, will no longer cross my mind. Ever again.
7. The word “standardized” is too often construed. As a result of extra time and some student’s ability’s to even take these tests over a course of several days, scores are skewed and different students are given advantages, creating a highly uneven playing field (something these tests preach). While extra time is a necessity for some that I do in fact believe should be offered, those with learning disabilities even with extra time find great difficulty in these formats of the test.
8. Test anxiety is a very real thing. I know that I know how many different outfit options Shawn has (a classic math section question). However, under the stress of sitting in a room with more than a dozen other nervous teens where the kid in the front row won’t stop shaking his leg, Jackie in the left corner has bronchitis, and Jole won’t stop sniffling, I may very well be distracted, and circle B when I really know the answer is C. There is a different kind of air when walking into one these test centers, where the level of stress being omitted from every corner truly reflects scores and the ability to properly think.
I do not have another “good” means of testing students nor a form that is necessary for colleges to limit the number of applications that can be read. I do however know for a fact that me, and the people I surround myself with, are a hell of a lot smarter than any number can reflect.