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The Truth about the Power of Standardized Test Scores

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The Truth about the Power of Standardized Test Scores
Learn about the true importance of standardized test scores in today鈥檚 competitive college admissions process.

After hours of cramming, attending test prep courses, and enduring long hours of practice exams, students do have to wonder: how much do standardized test scores really matter?

Some experts argue that standardized test scores are not an accurate measure of a student鈥檚 intelligence, while others assert that these scores help to more accurately gauge a student鈥檚 abilities. With this raging debate, recent studies are revealing the true influence of standardized test scores on a high school student鈥檚 college application and acceptance.

Why Take Standardized Tests?

With a rising number of students applying to both and universities, most schools are now requiring that all applicants complete standardized tests. The most popular standardized tests include assessments such as the SAT or the ACT. In fact, according to , American students today are among the most tested students in the world! Studies show that students, all combined, in the United States take nearly 100 million tests each year.

With the excessive testing forced upon American children and teens, many are led to the question: what鈥檚 the point? As Scholastic further explains, there is an array of reasons and purposes for these tests. Specifically, standardized tests are 鈥淰iewed as a measure of teacher and school competence and, in some cases, can affect a child's future placement in a school.鈥

Some tests are solely designed to ensure that all students are meeting average progress rates, while other tests are targeted at assessing each student鈥檚 unique abilities as they continue on to apply for higher education institutions. All of these standardized scores are assessed and scrutinized for various reasons and purposes; however, some experts debate over whether or not these scores truly play a role in a college applicant鈥檚 acceptance or denial to one鈥檚 school of choice.

Peering Through the Collegiate Looking Glass

According to , colleges look at more than an applicant鈥檚 mere standardized test scores. Specifically, colleges examine each applicant鈥檚 overall GPA, coursework, extracurricular activities, and the entry essay. In addition to these elements, of course, a college does, in fact, take note of a student鈥檚 test results. The main answer as to whether or not one鈥檚 test scores really matter is totally dependent upon each school and university鈥檚 acceptance standards.

Essentially, each university designates a specific percentage of weight for each element of an applicant鈥檚 information. For example, one school may count a student鈥檚 test scores as 50 percent of their application weight, while another school may only designate 25 percent of value to the SAT. With unique acceptance standards, each individual school has a different formula that determines the significance of the various application factors, including GPA, test scores, recommendation letters, and other considerations.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, over 60 percent of schools in the United States designate more weight to an applicant鈥檚 standardized test scores than any other category. In addition, it appears that universities, especially the elite ones, are giving increased value to the SAT score in their admissions evaluation. For example, over 78% of freshmen entering into Yale University in 2007 had math and verbal SAT scores over 700 鈥 which is a stark contrast to the numbers in 1989 when only 33% of freshman had verbal scores of 700.

is one example of a school that denotes a large portion of weight to standardized scores. According to Penn, various standardized tests are required for a student to send in his or her application for review. As Penn reveals, these various tests and each student鈥檚 scores play a major role in whether or not an applicant is accepted or denied.

Are My Test Scores High Enough?

As a potential applicant begins to seek out schools of interest, it is highly recommended that all students review each school鈥檚 average acceptance rates and information. For example, most universities post their average accepted student鈥檚 SAT/ACT scores, in addition to the average accepted student鈥檚 GPA. If you are far off from these average rankings, then you may want to consider re-taking your standardized test, or you may even want to begin looking into additional backup schools for an alternate plan if you鈥檙e not admitted.

The best approach when applying to any college is to plan ahead. Allow yourself to take the required standardized tests multiple times if needed. Also, even if you鈥檙e average scores put you in a position where you鈥檙e confident you will be accepted to your school of choice, always prepare for the possibility that you may be turned down. As schools are receiving an increasingly large quantity of applicants each year, the acceptance standards continue to soar. Apply to several schools so you don鈥檛 find yourself trapped without a backup agenda.

Questions? Contacts on Twitter. @publicschoolreview

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