SAT, ACT contain weaknesses

Sunday, January 5, 2003

By Sarah Lichtenegger

Many high school students worry about getting into college. Colleges usually admit students based on college entrance test scores, and most colleges require a minimum score to even consider a student for admission. Because of these factors, less importance should be placed on college entrance tests.

Colleges believe these tests predict a student's potential for success. According to Julian E. Barnes, author of "The SAT Revolution" in U.S. News & World Report, Carl Brigham created the SAT to "predict applicants' college grades, thereby selecting students who would benefit most from higher education." The ACT was created for much the same reason,

Robert Rodriguez, author of "Life After Hopwood" in Black Issues in Higher Education, disagrees. "Evidence clearly shows that the best indicator for success at a university is class rank and grades in core curriculum classes." Typically, students with a good work ethic and exemplary grades in high school will try harder and succeed in college -- also succeeding in life.

Even though high school grades are the best predictor of college grades, some people suggest that college entrance tests are useful to create an equal balance to compare students from different states, towns and schools. Students do not think alike and do not benefit from tests made for average students.

Stephen F. Borde, author of "Predictors of Student Academic Performance in the Introductory Marketing Course" in the Journal of Education for Business," agrees. "Performance on exams could be influenced by the type of questions that were predominant on the tests. [Researchers argue] that certain personality types performed better on multiple-choice questions, and other personality types did better with essay questions."

The ACT and SAT both consist of multiple-choice questions, so students who possess the personality to do better on essay questions could struggle on these tests, while students who do better on multiple-choice questions would tend to score higher.

Because of differences in personality types and testing skills, the ACT and SAT prove inadequate in creating an equal balance to compare students across the country.

College entrance tests are biased to certain personality types as well as low-income students. Because of the format of the tests, wealthier students can afford to obtain more training to raise their scores on entrance tests.

Howard Gardner, Harvard University testing expert, believed the SAT measure one's ability to get into college. After helping his son study for the SAT, he claims the test "measures how good your tutor is."

Many students buy software, attend classes and pay tutors to learn how to take college entrance tests. One student, unhappy with her SAT score, paid as much as $1,000 to learn how to take the SAT. As a result, wealthier students are buying higher scores, and lower-income students, who cannot afford these services, continue to score lower as a whole.

In fact, in the U.S. News & World Report article, "The SAT Revolution," a California researcher points out that lower-income students who do poorly on the SAT generally have better high school and college grades.

College entrance tests contain several weaknesses. High school grades are the best predictor of success in college. Entrance tests prove to be biased, because certain personality types and low-income students are prone to score lower than average students on these tests.

Some students may struggle to get into the colleges they want to attend because of college entrance test scores, but maybe in a few years colleges will start realizing that less importance should be placed on entrance tests.

Sarah Lichtenegger is a senior at Jackson High School.

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