Due to the unpredictable circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, many university admissions offices have temporarily made the submission of standardized test scores optional, and some universities are discussing whether standardized testing is necessary at all. This Monday, the Northwestern University Political Union debated the resolution that standardized test scores should no longer be considered in the college admissions process.
The primary debaters were Weinberg sophomore Sonia Peters for the resolution and Medill sophomore Felix Beilin against it. Prior to the debate, nine attendees voted in favor of the resolution and 12 against, with one abstention. Following the debate, seven attendees were in favor of the resolution and 11 were against it, with three abstentions.
[Editor's note: Beilin is co-president of Political Union and is also a section editor of NBN.]
According to Peters, not only is standardized testing an inaccurate measure of intelligence and college preparedness; it also perpetuates racial and socioeconomic inequality in higher education. Additionally, Peters argued that other components of the college application, such as letters of recommendation, personal essays and GPA, are better indicators of merit than standardized test scores.
"[A study by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research] said that GPA was five times better at predicting success," Peters said. "So from my perspective, [colleges] would be more interested in using GPA because it's a better predictor and [they] are trying to predict… who is going to be successful at college.”
While some Political Union members raised the issue of grade inflation and deflation across high schools, Weinberg junior Pamela Chen countered this point by explaining how high school guidance counselors can provide a more accurate representation of a student’s abilities in the context of their respective high schools.
“[Your high school] counselor... gives whatever college you're applying to a breakdown of your schedule in your school and sort of explains how you fit within the context of your school," Chen said.
Though Beilin acknowledged many of the flaws surrounding standardized testing, he argued that socioeconomic status has a limited effect on a student’s test score and that test scores are one of many components to the college application. Beilin cited a study that found test prep only accounts for an improvement of ten to 20 points on SAT. According to Beilin, this demonstrates that having access to such resources doesn’t actually put wealthier students at an advantage and the socioeconomic inequality indicated by test scores is exaggerated.
"Students should be able to use as many options as they have to stand out," said another attendee, Weinberg junior Elizabeth Sperti. "I feel like we're getting caught up in our problems with the education system at large, not necessarily with [standardized testing specifically].”
Though there was disagreement on whether standardized testing is truly fair and universal, most of Political Union agreed that, whether or not standardized test scores are considered, it is nearly impossible to accurately compare such a large pool of applicants and gauge their potential with such little information.
"Every aspect of the admissions process is in some way [clouded by] wealth and resources," Sperti said. "It's more of a systemic issue than an issue with the test itself.”
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