Editor frustrated over post-graduate standardized testing


As I have been working on my graduate applications for several weeks, my frustration levels with the higher education system grows. As I edit the same 500 words repeatedly and create 10 different versions of my resume, I’m angered that I’m forced to bend myself to the expectations of people who have not met me and are looking at a few pieces of paper to decide whether or not I’m worthy of their acceptance.

My greatest frustration, however, was taking the GRE. After weeks of studying for hours each day, I received average scores. In high school, I had the same result when I studied constantly for the SAT and ACT.

The purpose of standardized testing is valid. There is really no way to compare schools. A 4.0 from a competitive school is not the same as a 4.0 from a less challenging school. Standardized testing was created to try to assess where you are on the national scale.

The problem with it is that it only measures a certain type of learning and intelligence. Claude Steele, a psychologist, did a study in which he proved that the SAT only measures 18 percent of what it takes to do well in school. Just because you are not good at taking exams does not mean that you are not intelligent and it is unfortunate that society implies that grades and exam scores are what make a person successful.

While your GPA reflects four years of constant work, a standardized test measures three hours of extreme pressure. Researcher Gregory J. Cizek says that testing procedures create so much anxiety in young children that they may vomit or cry.

So, while standardized testing has value, it has become far too powerful. Many admissions departments have admitted that they consider SAT scores above anything else. In fact, many colleges have said that they covet high SAT scores because they want to boost the average at their school in order to make their school look more competitive.

Further, in lower education, standardized testing controls funding. Schools that do well on tests get more funding and schools that do poorly receive less funding. However, the low scoring schools could use the funding more. With tests having this much power, the education system shifted from teaching students to teaching students how to take tests.

Excessive testing may teach children to be good at taking tests, but does not prepare them for productive adult lives. In China, schools are effective at preparing their students for standardized tests, but the Deputy Principal of Peking University High School argued that they fail to prepare them for higher education and to provide knowledge of the economy. Educators believe they have produced only competent mediocrity.

When I was a senior in high school, I spent three months of my AP Literature class preparing to take the exam. Instead of preparing for college or for a career when I graduated, I was learning how to take an exam that would not affect my life in any way. The same year, when the junior class took the PSSA, I had a week off of classes because some juniors were in senior classes, resulting in a giant waste of everyone’s time.

I believe that schools should not require SAT, ACT or GRE scores. Instead, they should make it optional to send the score. What schools should be looking at are portfolios. If I am applying to an art program, I should submit an art portfolio that is considered above anything else. If I am an actor, I audition. Math majors can take a math exam. My skills and my choice of representing myself is far more important than something the government implements. The GRE is much closer because it has different topic exams, but it hasn’t developed a category for all majors.

I am thrilled that as I do my applications, I am submitting research essays that I have proudly written. They are an accumulation of my work and intelligence and represent me better than my GRE score ever could. However, I wonder how much of it will be read and how quickly they will push my application to the side when they see my score.