When students apply for college, arguably the most important aspect of one’s application is an ACT or SAT score. Does success on these tests really indicate good thinking and likely future success? Unfortunately, I think the answer is no.
The objective section of these tests are seriously flawed. Many of the answers are directly given to the student within the test while others are relatively common knowledge. Furthermore, students who take higher math classes such as calculus are essentially hurting their chances of success since such concepts do not even appear on any of the tests. The lack of higher level math gives lower level math students the advantage because their math (geometry, algebra, statistics) actually appears within the test.
The objective section is not the only problem. The essay section is essentially useless. It asks students for an opinion-based essay and then provides a very small amount of time to compose it. The test even announces that graders will not particularly care about grammar or spelling. In my opinion, this essay only reveals good procrastinators since it awards the skill of writing a mediocre essay in a short amount of time. However, a truly gifted writer will take his time to carefully craft and develop a well-written essay, which is nearly impossible within the given time constraints.
Finally, I do not believe that standardized tests award good thinkers. Albert Einstein, arguably the greatest thinker to have ever lived, once said, “It is not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Here Einstein is essentially saying that a great thinker is not the person who can speedily whip out quick and easy solutions. To be a great thinker and to solve a truly difficult problem a person must take his time, think through the problem at hand, and then come to a conclusion.
All this to say, a slow and steady approach to thinking goes much further in life than a standardized test score. So let’s stop fretting over a couple points when we have our whole lives ahead of us. Take your time. Stick with it. Tenacity and grit are going to be far more valuable than any test score.