The ACT and SAT entrance exams keep students stressing and guessing, wondering if they’ll get a score good enough to get into their college of choice.
And for years, the tests have had admissions counselors wondering whether they’re worth all the trouble.
But a report released by the National Association for College Admission Counseling this week suggests the tests don’t predict student success accurately enough to make them worth it.
Several smaller schools around the country have made reporting such test scores optional, virtually eliminating the ACT and SAT from the admissions process.
That plan negates the score disparity between the less affluent and wealthier students, who have access to test preparation and greater opportunities to retest for better scores, said David Hawkins , director of public policy and research for the association that issued the report.
Hawkins also served as a liaison to the commission of college admissions staff who convened to discuss the topic.
Those in the University’s admissions office have informally discussed such a measure, but Twin Cities campus director of admissions Wayne Sigler said the school is far from taking official action.
In 2003, all University colleges scrapped a formulaic, test score- and grade point average-based evaluation process, according to Sigler.
Now, factors such as class rank, GPA, rigor of course work and ACT scores are paired with what students tell the University about themselves in terms of special skills or experiences.
No factor trumps another in decision making, Sigler said.
“ACT scores are just one part of that review,” he said. “At the University, we have a healthy respect and skepticism for test scores.”
At this point, the admissions office is comfortable with its protocol, but Sigler noted staff members are “constantly reviewing all of our admissions policies to make certain that we are applying the current best practices.”
Lawrence University , a 1,429-student college in Appleton, Wis., doesn’t require applicants to submit scores.
“It’s really helpful for the students who have done really well in high school and who don’t test well,” said Vice President for Enrollment Steve Syverso n, who sat on the commission that drafted the report.
Plus, it takes away stress that Syverson and the report suggest may be caused in part by the test-prep industry, an academic cash cow.
High school GPA and curriculum choice are better predictors of collegiate success, he said.
And while standardized tests have some predictive value, students are simply too stressed about them, and fixate too much on the numbered scores.
“We think that the value has now been dwarfed by negative side effects,” he said.
But test-prep agencies aren’t to blame for the anxiety, Kaplan Test Prep national director of college programs Kristen Campbell said.
“The college admissions process is competitive and we know that there are more students applying each year than ever before,” she said, adding that it’s hard to escape pressures spurred by that fact.
Sigler agreed that competition among applicants has been increasing, and has compounded student stress.
Over the past five years, 64 percent more University applications have come in. More than 29,000 arrived last year alone.
Each application is reviewed by at least two people in the admissions office and evaluated based, in part and at least for now, on ACT scores.
“I can tell you where things are today,” Sigler said. “I can’t tell you where things will be in the future.”