Putting standardized tests into perspective

A lot of people have completely lost their minds.

Nowhere in the word of college admissions has so much of the
population gone so far over the deep end as they have with standardized
tests.  Sixth graders are taking SAT prep
classes.  People are paying obscene
amounts of money (sometimes upwards of 10 or 20 thousand dollars!) for the
“best” prep tutors.  Families are taking tutors with them on vacation so as not to break the summer prep streak.  

In some cases, people are right to be concerned.  If you want to go to Yale and you have a
1520 on the SAT, your chances are probably going to be slim.

That’s the bad news.

But most of the over 2000 colleges out there don’t expect
sky-high test scores.  There are plenty of good colleges out there that will gladly take a good kid with average or even below average test scores.   

In fact, Fairtest,
an
organization that works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized
testing, maintains a list of over 700 schools where SAT/ACT scores are
not even required for
admission.  Id love to see that list grow to include all four-year
colleges–dare to dream.

So, that’s the good news.  You can pretty much walk into the SAT, take it cold, and
as long as you don’t draw dirty pictures on the answer sheet, you’ll still get
into college.  I'm not suggesting you should actually do it that way, but test scores are not a life or death experience.  Don't treat them like one.  Maintain your perspective.

A few testing thoughts PSAT and SAT test-takers…

October is a busy month for standardized test-taking; juniors will be taking the PSAT, and a lot of seniors will be taking what for many of them will be the last SAT they will take in their lifetime (that milestone alone is worth celebrating).

For PSAT test-takers (and their parents), remember that the PSAT is just a practice test.  Its purpose is to show you how you would likely do on the SAT (which is NOT a practice test).  That means that even if you somehow managed to achieve the lowest PSAT test score in the history of college admissions, it can't hurt your chances of getting in to college.  Yes, for particularly great test-takers, the PSAT score is a predominate factor in determining your eligibly for National Merit Scholarships, but for most testers, the PSAT is nothing to stress about.  Do you best and use the PSAT for what it is–a non-threatening chance to test the test-taking waters and help you later make decisions about how to prepare for the SAT.

For SAT test-takers, I'd just like to remind you that your SAT score is not a measure of your intelligence or of your worth as a human being.  Lots of smart people struggle with the SAT, and lots of those people go on to be very successful during and after college.  So do your best, accept whatever score you get, and move on.  I don't mean to be flippant about this, and I acknowledge that the SAT is an important factor of admissions at many colleges.  But far too many students have had their confidence ruined by test scores that just wouldn't go as high as they'd like them to go, and you shouldn't allow yourself to be one of those people.  If you'd like some encouragement, check out some of the over 800 colleges who've decided that low SAT or ACT scores don't necessarily have to hurt your chances of admission to their freshman classes.