College Admission Tests: What For?

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While reading Chapter 9 in our psych books, which covers intelligence and IQ testing, I couldn't help but take a particular interest in the section about college admission tests, such as the ACT and SAT. Since we are students at the U, it is safe to assume all of us have taken the ACT, SAT, or maybe even both. This section stood out to me because I am a firm believer that these tests do nothing but cause extra stress, pressure, and cost us money, without actually producing any significant results. There are so many factors that have to be taken into account, I just don't see how these tests can be trusted to accurately measure anyone's success rate. They are a snapshot of one day in a student's life, using material that they may or not even be familiar with. In addition, they leave test-takers with limited time to complete the questions, which seems a little unfair considering these tests are supposedly measuring our success in the future.
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Psychologists designed these tests to forecast performance in undergraduate courses. Yet, according to our books, the correlations between these tests and college grades are often below .5 and I a few cases close to zero. Although these tests tend to predict first-year grades at reasonable levels, they generally do a worse job of predicting performance in later years of college. With facts like this, a person has to wonder: What is the point?

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You raise some interesting points, but keep in mind the ACT and SAT have been standardized tests for a very long time. Universities need a standardized way to evaluate incoming students to see if they can handle the rigor the university requires; without it, it may be too subjective to say whether or not someone should be considered. The correlation is high enough to justify having a standardized test score be part of what is considered for each student, but I think that these academic tests have too much influence nowadays. The ACT score you receive pretty much tells you how much money you will receive as scholarships and if you will be accepted in certain colleges (like CSE), which must cause tremendous stress to the high school students who are taking these academic tests. The good news is that you can take these tests as many times as you want, so perhaps that lessens the anxiety a little bit.

I agree with you, these standardized tests that are supposedly designed to measure our success in the future don't seem very reliable. Also with these tests having below a .5 correlation doesn't deem them to be predictors of a person's future success. As you mentioned, other factors need to be taken into consideration when taking such tests, like other distractions, people's ability to concentrate, etc. Some people are just not great test takers to begin with, so these tests set them up for failure in a way. I just don't think that a certain test score should set in stone one's future path of success or lack there of.

I agree that the ACT, SAT, and other similar tests are not the best way to assess students coming into college. However, I understand that the reason for using them is probably because it would be unfair to go purely off of high school grades for a few reasons. First of all, classes could be easier at different schools. There are also smart people who didn't apply themselves in high school so college admission tests are a second chance for them. Still, I don't think that college admissions tests do a very good job of assessing peoples intelligence. The tests aren't very hard, but they give you a limited amount of time. For me this sucks, because I don't think quickly. Basically the they test who is able to think quickly and efficiently under pressure. The limited time also makes me, and probably many other people, nervous and causes me to make stupid mistakes that I wouldn't otherwise make. Maybe, if there must be college admissions tests, they should change the format of the tests a little bit.

I was really interested in the graph that displayed the insignificance of IQ tests after a certain score. I have observed in many points in my life that the intelligence determined by something such as an IQ test has very little relevance in determining success and motivation. A person with a lower IQ is capable of accomplishment in a university with enough motivation and hard work.

I agree that in general, standardized tests tend to just cause a lot of stress, and often give unfavorable results to people who are actually quite bright and intelligent, just lousy at taking tests.
However, standardized tests do provide some structure as to an overall picture of a students intelligence/what have you.
But I disagree that it's meant to foresee your success in college or higher ed, I think you make be confused on that aspect of the ACT or SAT, as success can be defined pretty broadly, especially once you reach college and have more responsibilities to take on that have nothing to do with your school work or what you know in regards to book smarts.

I completely agree with your blog! You made very good points, and there are many people who are very smart and terrible test takers and adding a limited amount of time doesn't help the test taking and showing their true intelligence. Also, many schools have design programs, and the whole left brain, right brain cannot be seen through these types of tests.

I think that it is so funny to look back and hear from kids that are taking them now, and think that they are blowing it out of proportion, when in reality, it was the only thing on my mind at the time. Although they are not full proof, until we come up with a better way to weed through thousands of applications, the standardized testing will be around for many years.

I think that a lot of the results of standardized tests are not always predictive, however, there needs to be some way to assess intelligence when colleges and universities are deciding on who to admit to their schools. So while they may not always be perfect indicators of performance or intelligence, I think they are necessary and have a purpose to some extent.

This is a good point. I agree that the ACT and SAT are not a great estimate of college performance simply because it is only one day of your life. However, I also think that colleges do need a way to narrow down who they admit and standardized testing is an easy way to do it.

I agree with you that so much pressure on one test is unfair and unrealistic. Although they may not be the best way for assessing a student's knowledge, they are another component that can separate the thousands of students applying for college. Schools look at many different parts of a student's academic performance including GPA and extracurricular activities. These components show what type of student a person has been over a longer span of time. Standardized tests simply give them a glimpse of a student's knowledge. Over the years, less emphasis has been put on standardized tests so I think this is becoming less and less of a problem.

I also think these tests are not as applicable to future success or even just success in college. I think the biggest factor in success in college is the time spent on your classes and ability to learn new information. I always thought it was silly to think one test could predict college success in the form of grades. I also think success at college could mean something different to each student. Some may be here for the high GPA others for the course information, while still others to make life long connections, and also for those who want to continue their education threw out their lives. Therefore I think college should focus more on the learner’s goals and less on its prestige and self-interest. College should continue to offer formal education but also have more courses taught in the adult education perspective. I am going to be teaching a section of CLA 1001 and 1002 next year and the format of these courses are very similar to adult education where the learner has power to choose how and what they want to do with the material. The teachers will help the learners with their goals and assist them in the process of choosing their path in college and life.

I have different thoughts on this subject. I somewhat understand the reason we have these tests. We have them so that colleges and universities have something to compare while searching through all of the applicants. They are a standard way to test kids. But at the same time I truly believe there are many aspects of these exams that either don't help kids or actually hurt kids in the long run. I think that there are people who get stressed with tests and might perform worse than they would otherwise. I think some people are just bad test takers in general. One of the biggest aspects about these exams that makes me mad is the fact that they are timed. I think that many people would do much better if they had no time limit. I know for myself that I would have done better than I did if I had the time to actually think more and look through my options and my answers. I think it could be a good idea to come up with something that only helps kids for college not hurts them in any way.

I thought the SATs and other college entrance exams only benefited the College Board, not the students. After reading the psychology chapter about Intelligence and IQ, I only believe more that these tests do not accurately test a person's true intelligence. Although these tests may accurately predict how well a college student will do during the first year of study, it does not define a person's entire academic career. There is a 0.5 or less correlation between these entrance exams and actual college grades.

I never really understood all the hullabaloo about standardized tests. I come from a very rural area, and I wasn't aware of many of the traditional things people do for college prep. I took my ACT in the last month of my senior year of high school without ever studying anything for it. I was surprised to learn many of my friends from here had begun studying for it in ninth grade, and actually took it several times. I had a cold while I took my test, so I spent a large part of the time blowing my nose. I felt so bad for the people around me. I got a mediocre score, but it didn't bother me a bit. I see these tests as a necessary criterion for judging student's capabilities at succeeding in college. Certainly if you have straight A's and have gotten lots of experiences, your score doesn't matter as much. Maybe I'm still out of the loop, but I think these tests are one of a number of things they look at when judging college admittance. Great post, with lots of info! Thanks!

I completely agree with you. I think these tests are a waste of time and don't accurately measure intelligence or success rates. I know many people who got better grades but lower scores on the ACT than some kids who hardly did anything in school. Like you said there are many factors that go into how a persons' day is going. If someone is really stressed out before the test they may not perform as well as someone who is well rested and not stressed out about other aspects of their life.

I really don't feel that these test are an accurate measurement of intelligence or success rates because people strive in different areas of life. People who may not have the intelligence while taking a test may have really good people skills and street smarts. There are so many different forms of intelligence that basing someones overall intelligence off one test just isn't fair.

Unfortunately, the reality of this situation means that colleges and universities HAVE to continue using this scale as long as their peers do. Anything less paints an image for the public of the University having lazy admissions requirements.

After reading this it frustrated me and left me wondering why did I even take the ACT? Then I read the prahl's comment and it makes me think there may be some sort of social psychology behind why we take these tests (conformity).

The ACT and the SAT have their faults. I believe even the people who write the exam would admit this. A perfect exam that tests everyone fairly would be nearly impossible to create because there is no way to make sure every individual doesn't have other environmental factors effecting them. I believe that the SAT and the ACT are necessary for college admission, because different high schools do not test or give the same kinds of grades.

I agree, there are various faults contributed to the ACT and SAT, but these faults are not easier or harder questions. They are just things the test itself can not account for, such as cultural differences and other outside factors.

Although there are some valid points here, I still feel as if the test is necessary for college admissions. GPA and course content is not constant through all high schools, so GPA may not be as representative as people believe. These college admissions tests shouldn't hold too much weight as they are just one day, but I do believe they play a role in creating a consistent form of measure for everyone being admitted.

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This page contains a single entry by goro0014 published on April 23, 2012 12:08 AM.

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