FEATURE: Test Optional Policies Spark Debate

Students and staff discuss the effects of standardized tests becoming optional at many colleges

Lauren Tao

Standardized tests have long been a required part of the college admissions process, with students spending months beforehand studying and even taking classes to help prepare. But now it seems that almost every school has changed to a test optional policy, allowing students to choose whether or not they submit their scores. 

Many colleges began implementing this policy around 2020, citing the lack of test availability due to the pandemic, but the trend began a few years earlier. Jeffrey Morrison, a Special Education teacher at Free State, said that around 2017-2018, colleges began to deemphasize the importance of standardized tests. Another reason for this big change is the bias presented in standardized tests. Students from wealthy backgrounds have access to more resources that aid in test performance. 

However, not everyone agrees with the factors behind test optional policies. Senior Abby Coons believes that standardized tests provide a more level playing field.

 “Even if you have private tutors, you’re still doing the work,” Coons said. 

Coons submitted her test score, and received scholarships and gained entrance into selective engineering programs.

Other students like Senior Joel Harrison said that standardized tests aren’t representative of people’s true abilities, and instead, they’re about strategies to increase your score.

“Since people have access to more complicated, gimmicky strategies to get better scores, it’s no longer standardized,” Harrison said.

Harrison said that he performed well on his test despite his GPA being in a lower academic bracket.

Morrison said that the racial and gender biases may be an inherent part of the standardization. 

“It’s hard to get away from [bias], just because they are standardized based on the population of our country,” Morrison said. 

While the future impact of standardized tests remains unclear, one thing Morrison, Coons, and Harrison can all agree on is their continued importance in merit based scholarships.