Standardized tests benefit the College Board and no one else photo photo

By Ally Grimaldi, Copy Editor

You know there’s something majorly wrong when SAT test administrators have to clean up vomit so often that they are given an instruction booklet on how to do so. The anxiety produced by standardized tests, however, is not the only downfall of this $250 million dollar industry; it’s the content of the test itself. The perpetrators? The College Board.

Although testing agencies will say otherwise, the true purpose of a standardized test is to rank students in relation to one another. The problem with this, however, is that these tests are regarded as a tool to measure one’s intelligence, when they are clearly not fit to do so. The SAT, in particular, is scored on a curve. The grade itself is not based on what you know, but rather how you rank in comparison with your peers across the globe. The number does not in any way calibrate a person’s knowledge, yet it is recognized as one of the sole indicators to determine a person’s current and future successes. Unfortunately, the test is designed to erect certain results, and therefore, it becomes less of a measure of intelligence as it does a matter of playing the game.

The College Board creates these tests, and they do so in a way to fit the curve of expected scores. This means that they often times make questions much more difficult to understand than necessary in an attempt to confuse the test taker. This manipulation makes it difficult to decode questions, which promotes incorrect answers. Furthermore, the choices provided are often very similar and the validity of each statement could go either way, which makes a student more apt to elect an incorrect answer. Moreover, standardized tests often reward quick answers to superficial questions and do not measure one’s ability to think deeply or creatively in any field.

Although they are made out to, these tests clearly do not reflect true intelligence. Test creators make differences that are very small appear much larger in an effort to sort and rank students. Furthermore, the great majority of SAT tutoring programs are run by the College Board. This provision of testing materials and studying techniques is frowned upon by the testing community. It is considered unethical to provide these resources on a test that “assesses one’s current skills”—this is not something that you are supposed to study for. Additionally, this promotes classism. Having these resources at one’s disposal creates an unfair advantage for those who can afford to pay for the extra studying materials.

Moreover, these types of materials encourage a narrowed curriculum that lacks diversity. It promotes outdated methods of instruction and harmful practices like grading retention and tracking. This encourages the pressure to obtain a higher score, which can cause anxiety and its byproducts, like crying and vomiting on tests. In reality, a higher score means nothing; a 2013 study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that higher test scores are not correlated with advanced cognitive abilities like memory, attention, and speed. All in all, these scores do not amount to much.

There are also a significant amount of problems within the essay portion of the SAT. For instance, test takers are expected to write a full-fledged essay directly after taking a four-hour long test. This includes reading a persuasive paper on a controversial issue, and writing an essay on how the author crafts his argument. This has to be the most boring, useless topic to write an essay on. It does not allow for creative demonstration of comprehension of the topic or of thoughtful writing capabilities like it advocates for, but rather provides a formulaic response that is easy for scorers to grade. Additionally, factual references and evidence in essays do not have to be correct. Students will not be marked down if they provide incorrect information in an essay. This perpetuates misinformation, and allows students to exaggerate claims without repercussions. Of course, this could just be because scorers don’t actually read the essays; the College Board has been known to grade essays solely based on length. Les Pearlman, director of undergraduate writing at MIT, conducted an experiment to prove this. He obtained essays that had been previously graded by the College Board and scored them without reading their contents. He was right 90 percent of the time.

Besides this, the College Board, which considers itself to be a non-profit corporation, also sells students’ information. When provided on the PSAT, SAT, SAT Subjects Test, or otherwise, the College Board sells your information for 37 cents a pop, and makes millions doing so. If you have taken these tests and suddenly had your mailbox or inbox spammed, you can thank the College Board for its contributions.

According to WPIX, a student may take as many as 113 different standardized tests by graduation. The number of tests has tripled since the installation of No Child Left Behind, admitted by the Bush administration. So what’s with the obsession of ranking students against one another? A classroom evaluation and academic history record serve as much better indicators of a student’s progress than a standardized test does, so it is ridiculous that college admissions rely so heavily on these scores. Fortunately, many schools are starting to move away from the use of standardized tests, and move towards the use of work samples and other indications of academic progress.

Next time you go to take a standardized test, remember this: the only being that benefits from your test is the College Board. We should not expect otherwise.