Standardized Tests: Do They Help or Hurt Students?


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Brynn McCarthy, Copy Editor

The SAT/ACT can either poorly or beneficially reflect high school students. Is this test an accurate reflection of a student’s knowledge?

Should colleges require applicants to send SAT/ACT scores? Mr. Gore, a guidance counselor at Pentucket, thinks, “Personally, no, I think students who perform well should send their scores, but I think students who do well regularly and get As and Bs should not be hindered.” He says that over 80 percent of Pentucket students who take the test take it approximately two to three times. Students attempting to improve their score are likely to retake the SAT/ACT. 

Similarly, a parent of a Pentucket student says, “No, it doesn’t make sense for someone who has worked hard all through high school to be deferred from attending due to one low test score.”

When fifty seniors were asked whether or not they sent their test scores to the colleges they applied to, thirty six responded yes, while the remaining fourteen responded no. Gore says that many college applicants send their scores, but he advises those who are unhappy with their scores to seek out colleges who do not require them. 

Mia Thistlewood, a student at Pentucket, sent her SAT scores to all the colleges she applied to. However, she says, “The only reason I sent my scores [to colleges] was because they were required. Otherwise, I feel like I wouldn’t have, as I don’t feel like they accurately represent me as a student.”

Many people claim that retaking and studying for the SAT can raise scores. On the contrast, Thistlewood says, “I got the same score twice, even though I studied much more for the second one. I feel like that goes to show the quality of the SAT, and how it varies on difficulty, as if it was similar to the first one I took I would have done better.”

Some students believe that standardized tests fail to accurately represent the academic skills that are developed throughout high school. A student at Pentucket, Paige McIntosh, says, “I don’t feel as though the knowledge I’ve gained through school is reflective of my SAT score. I am personally not a good test taker, so the SAT definitely isn’t a good portrayal of my knowledge.”

McIntosh does not believe that the entire high school curriculum should be condensed into one test that could potentially make or break her future. She thinks that her grades should speak for themselves, saying, “My grades in school are better than my SAT score, as those grades aren’t due to one test. They are due to many projects and assignments, whereas the SAT is one test, and I’m a very bad test taker.”

Veneti Stamateas, another student at Pentucket, believes that a single test should not be able to make or break somebody’s academic career. However, he thinks that the SAT has worked to his advantage. He says, “My semester grades are lower than my SAT and ACT for sure, but not so much that my SAT seems unusual. I would say it’s because I do well on tests but don’t always do homework.” In his case, having a high SAT and ACT score essentially makes up for any missed opportunity of constantly having high semester grades. 

Some students think that the SAT/ACT is beneficial for colleges to look at, as it shows a common standard that students across America must meet. Ms. Ducolon, a Pentucket teacher who has taken the SAT, says, “There is nothing that says a grade A at Pentucket is the same as a grade A at Somerville High or a grade A at a school at San Francisco. Only a similar test such as an AP exam or SAT/ACT score can show that one school is giving easier semester grades than another.”

Stamateas says, “The SAT/ACT tests my knowledge and how fast I can think/apply what I have learned. In my opinion, it’s up to the test takers to be able to have a mastery of the criteria and be fast enough to get a good grade. Even though I am geared towards that, I still had to put some work in before I took the test.” If a student is not able to quickly apply knowledge gained through high school, then the SAT may not be beneficial in reflecting their academic ability.

Students have contrasting opinions on whether or not standardized tests are beneficial or not. Those who send their high SAT/ACT to colleges are often reflected well. However, students who have scores that are lower than their semester grades are required to send their scores to colleges may be poorly affected.