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Marlborough School Student Newspaper
The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

The benefits of standardized tests

Christina ’24

Although the world has become increasingly polarized, many issues are complex and are (or should be) impossible to be solely for or against. Standardized testing is one of those complex issues. Since Dartmouth’s Feb. 5 decision, several other universities have made the decision to reverse the test-optional policies they adopted during the pandemic.

At first, while my initial reaction was one of panic, the deviation from the test-optional policy is complex and nuanced and could have beneficial implications.

First, while I do admit that this reason is decidedly selfish, requiring test scores makes my and many of my peers’ lives easier. According to The New York Times, a total of 43% of applicants submitted test scores in 2023, compared to 74% of applicants submitting tests pre-pandemic. For a more Marlborough-centered view, I have learned from speaking to people in
my grade that a majority of students are still taking tests, but not always submitting scores.

The important thing to recognize is that the average “good” score has become increasingly hard to obtain because colleges are only being sent disproportionately high scores. But, if tests are required, all of a sudden scores such as a 1420 on the SAT or a 31 on the ACT look very different because the average test score being sent will have reduced. The pressure to work hard to get impossibly high scores will decrease.

However, more importantly, although the belief for a long time was that test scores are harmful to students of lower socioeconomic status, this has shifted. Yes, undeniably, the system of standardized testing is enormously flawed because affluent students have access to more resources like expensive tutors and numerous retakes. But, hopefully, colleges recognize this reality and examine test scores within the context of the inequalities that exist within the standardized testing system. Thus, the scores of lower-income and higher-income students do not have to be directly compared.

“If students self-identify in their writing, admission offices could look at their applicant pools in cohorts,” Dean of College Counseling Monica DePriest said. “So you can look at the entire applicant pool, or you could also look at a particular population of students within that applicant pool.”

In understanding that the system does not always enable lower-income students to receive the highest scores, colleges are able to recognize that an impressive score can be a sign of success and an ability to thrive at their school.For instance, in an article in The New York Times about Dartmouth’s reinstatement of the test-optional policy, journalist David Leonhardt wrote that many low-
er-income students “withheld test scores that would have helped them get into Dartmouth.” The students thought that their scores were too low when, in reality, they could be beneficial to prove that the students overcame difficult setbacks and therefore could thrive at Dartmouth. “Dartmouth admits disadvantaged students who have scores that are lower on average than those of privileged students.”

Moreover, according to DePriest, in the school profile document, colleges can sometimes see the average score of students at a specific high school, which further helps to contextualize test scores. In some cases, seeing the average score can help certain students to stand out in an applicant pool when their score is above average.

Of course, this is not to say that the question of standardized testing is a simple issue, as there are many nuances to keep inmind but, most importantly, it is impossible to make a blanket statement regarding requiring standardized testing.

“I think that admission offices have always seen themselves as social engineers,” DePriest said. “[They want] to provide ac-
cess to people for whom college has not always been an opportunity. And I think that the argument could be made on both sides with the testing or without, but the goal is still the same: They want to provide access.”

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Dinah '25
Dinah '25, Photo Editor
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