The SAT and other standardized tests are perpetually looming in the future of every high school student, whether they are a freshman or a senior. These tests affect where students go to college in an exceedingly tangible way as college admissions officers often use them as a standard of comparison among students. And college admissions officers’ practices are understandable because, after all, standardized tests are meant to be constants—impartial and consistent throughout the nation. However, standardized tests like the SAT are discriminatory and problematic in students’ lives in a number of ways; they are unfair, biased, and put undue stress on students. As a result, these tests should be immediately discontinued.
First, it can be seen that the problems, the fabric of the test, trigger stereotype threats in women, oftentimes causing distraction. This distraction pushes some women to focus on the gender inequality issues woven into problems and become mentally fatigued later in the test. New York Times reporter Anemona Hartocollis interviewed Sheila Akbar, the education director of a test prep company, on the very subject of distracting problems for women on the SAT. Akbar described how, as an old hand at test taking, she was distracted by problems while taking an SAT. For example, in the math section of the test, there was a question involving a chart showing more boys than girls in math classes. This highlights the stereotype that there are more men than women in STEM, producing a stereotype threat as a result. Experts in the field of test taking noticed questions similar to this one on the same test, citing them as potentially throwing off students (as was the case with Akbar). The fact that the SAT creates a potential gender bias rendering the scores of some women lower means that they could miss the cut-off of STEM-centered schools, perpetuating the stereotypes and gender inequality that caused their scores to lower in the first place. Essentially, the SAT creates a catch-22 in gender inequality that can only be halted if the SAT were abolished. However, all women are not thrown off by questions stereotypically threatening to some. Gender stereotypes are just one of the many that may be woven into data sets and passages, possibly triggering threats for a myriad of different ethnic or religious groups of people.
In addition to creating a catch-22 in gender inequality, the SAT and other standardized tests also discriminate racially and socioeconomically. In order to score well on a test, students often enroll in expensive test prep classes, something students with high-income parents are more likely to do, creating an economic bias. According to a New York Times article by Catherine Rampell, “There’s a very strong positive correlation between income and test scores.” Coincidentally, or rather, non-coincidentally, according to The Pew Research Center and Eileen Patten, white and Asian Americans, on average, have higher salaries than others, creating a general racial bias tied to the economic bias of tests. This bias also perpetuates inequality in society because SAT and other test scores are looked at as measurements of intelligence when students apply to colleges. So, to help decrease the gap between classes and genders, the SAT and similar tests must be halted.
In addition to the long term detrimental effects of the standardized tests, they also produce an abundance of stress and anxiety in teens. The pressure put on students to perform well in tests is a huge source of stress for high schoolers because their SAT or ACT scores could decide whether they are accepted into the college of their dreams or their last choice. However, a standardized test is done in a matter of hours, standing to represent the years students spend learning and growing in high school. The extreme amounts of pressure placed on students to succeed may cause them to break under the strain, giving them a bad score possibly not representing their true intelligence. A test that spans a day which students could easily mess up on produces a number out of 1600, the product of years of work at CHS. Because they do not accurately represent the whole of each student’s time in high school, they should not make or break a student’s future.
For a myriad of reasons, standardized tests damage society and are detrimental to students, leading to the conclusion that they should not be offered. In addition, racial, gender, and class bias of tests perpetuates inequality in society because so much weight is put on test scores. Although the SAT and other standardized tests seem to be an ideal measure of intelligence, the only standard that tests accurately measure is privilege. However, there is hope: in Scotland, students are assessed in a markedly unbiased way. Each school’s curriculum is taken into account when students are evaluated and students are shadowed (partly by retired educators) and interviewed so as to eliminate any potential sources of bias. Although it may be difficult to revolutionize the testing system in America, it would be feasible to instate a system which takes into account individual school curriculum and students’ day-to-day learning habits.