ACT/SAT scores should be optional

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Most students have spent countless hours, mental space and money—for registration and sometimes a tutor—preparing for the ACT/SAT just to get back a score that doesn’t reflect what we know. Sure, there are hundreds of people who do well on the ACT, but what does a single score say about what a student will bring to a college? The answer: absolutely nothing.

A test score shows how well a student can take a test, not who they are as a person (or even their intelligence). The truth is, some of us are just bad test takers. We’ve all studied for months, gone to tutoring, taken practice exams every week and learned every shortcut and technique. All to do well on an exam we’re told will determine our future school.

In my practice exams for the ACT reading section, I scored very well—only missing a question or two—but when I was testing, my nerves got in the way, and I started to panic in the middle of the exam.

Another time, I got a nosebleed and started to bleed all over my test while simultaneously trying to convince the proctor not to take my test away and to let me finish. Sure, I did have the chance to retake the exam, and in turn hope for a better score, but every time I retook the ACT, the pressure of doing better kept building up until the word “ACT” filled me with dread.

I spent countless nights over the past year stressing over the ACT while balancing an already-stressful school workload. In turn, I wasn’t able to spend as much time on the things that really define who I am, like journalism and Model UN.

Having spent several months doing ACT tutoring, there is one message I’ve learned: the ACT and SAT are designed to trick you. For example, the science portion of the ACT requires no knowledge of any science—even though it has the word “science” in the title—but instead tests your ability to read a passage and pick out valuable information. So, how does a 36 on the science section relate to a student’s knowledge about science and whether or not they’d succeed in a science field? It doesn’t.

I’m not proposing that we get rid of the ACT/SAT, but it should hold less importance in the college application process. I get that colleges need to have some way to compare students equally because some schools have different GPA scales, and some don’t have AP courses, but I wish test scores didn’t carry as much weight as they do. Schools claim that they don’t have a cut off test score, but it’s obvious that it’s hard to get into a school if you’re below a certain score.

I suggest schools join the 850—and growing—test-optional colleges in the U.S, and let students choose if they want to submit their ACT/ SAT scores. Schools should focus more on a student’s essays, GPA and extracurriculars because they are better indicators if a student is right for a school, not one number from one day.