sample-Use of SAT Scores and ACT Scores


Use of SAT Scores and ACT Scores

SAT and ACT are considered a rite of passage in the American education system. They are used to determine the readiness for college for a student thus making them a critical gateway to higher learning. While there are efforts to equalize learning and academic opportunity, these types of scopes have led to large gender and racial gaps. The SAT is used to measure academic inequality after completing secondary schooling. From the study conducted by Hoover and Supiano (2010), it was concluded that these types of scores increase racial gaps because students from racial minority groups end up not getting the aspired opportunities. This conclusion was based on the findings that while the mean score for math section for all assessed students was 511 out of 800, Blacks scored an average of 428, Latinos scored 457, Whites scored 534 and Asians scored 598. From these results, it is notable that both Whites and Asian scored above average thus having Blacks and Latinos clustered at the bottom of the distribution, Whites relatively normally distributed, and Asians clustered at the top.  

A similar study conducted by Klopfenstein and Thomas (2011) on Princeton University showed the same distribution of results with Asians scoring 140 points more than Whites, 270 higher than Hispanics, and 450 higher than Blacks. From the two studies, it is evident that Hispanics and Blacks are more likely to miss chances in university and college admissions. With these tests administered in schools, different universities (such as Harvard and Yale) have had lawsuits urging for investigation of the admission practices because of having Hispanic student population remain roughly at 13-16% for 20 years while than of Asians has doubled. Due to the harm of using standardized tests, Hoover (2012) reported that by 2010, over 830 4-year colleges did not use SAT or ACT. In addition, it was revealed that colleges that reported to attach considerable importance to standardized scores had increased from 46% in 1993 to 60% in 2006. From the findings, it is notable that the use of SAT scores and ACT scores solely to determine college acceptance hinders minorities acceptance rates because the standardized test typically hurt minority groups and as a result, colleges should look to do away with that requirement.   

Opposing Arguments

            While SAT and ACT scores are considered disadvantageous to minority populations (people of minority races, females, and those coming from poor socioeconomic backgrounds), Atkinson and Geiser (2009) note that they are fair and should be utilized in determining college applicants’ acceptance. As explained by Keller and Hoover (2011), while standardized tests are considered bias, this aspect has been removed by the test bias has been addressed by current admission tests that have extensive researched and developed question items. This means that the asked questions have been reviewed to cater for individual differences of the catered students. This way, it is ensured that only students who fit admissions for higher learning are enrolled. Klopfenstein and Thomas (2011) note that if SAT and ACT tests were dropped, most students who are academically fit for higher learning opportunities would be denied the chance and given to other less deserving students. It is also notable that since students are subjected to both types of tests, they are given a chance of performing better in one of them. Since the two tests do not test the same types of skills, the scores would be used to determine the types of students.

According to Alon and Tienda (2007), the major reason for reviewing standardized test scores during the acceptance review is to ensure the candidate is able to perform at the college level and succeed. This is based on evaluation studied predicting success in colleges since they highlight factors  most linked to college GPA and class rank at the end of the first year. It also helps in predicting the probability of graduating as well as the likely cumulative GPA at graduation. This is because the major purpose of SAT is to measure the potential of a student for academic success in the university while ACT is closely linked to mastery of high school curriculum. This way, the test scores serve as a benchmark that all incoming college students have been properly prepared (educated) to be successful. As explained by Hoover (2012), use of both ACT and SAT predicts how well students would perform in their initial college years indicating that they are a way to evaluate student preparedness that is fair for applicants. Keller and Hoover (2011) also note that they help in determining the type of students thus coming up with the best teaching approach to support his success.

Even though SAT and ACT tests are supported by many as the best approach of determining student’s preparedness for college education and predicting student success as well as probability of graduating, they have been noted by Atkinson and Geiser (2009) to be used to deny chances to deserving students leading to racial and gender gaps. From personal experience, I do not support either of the tests because if not used, students who could have performed very poorly in them would be enrolled in universities and succeed academically. I was denied acceptance into FSU because my math test score was to low even though I had a 4.0 GPA. While taking AP courses, hours of community service, was a varsity cheerleader. I applied to UWF and was granted provisional acceptance because of my math test scores all because I am not a strong standardized test taker. I also have a friend who was denied scholarship and thus the only chance she would advance her education because of her performance on these standardized tests. While she was the second best in her high school class of 310 students, with an exceptional high school grade, and with a goal of being the only one in the family to attend a university to study molecular engineering, these dreams were shattered when she scored 1000 in SAT out of 1600.  

In order to address the challenges posed by SAT and ACT scores, Hoover and Supiano (2010) propose a holistic approach that would test different skills for students.  Since different students are gifted differently and thus able to perform better in some subjects over others, it is advisable that a different testing approach is used. Using a holistic approach is supported by Alon and Tienda (2007) to help in testing different skills that are not only required in enrolling students to universities but also help in identifying the best course/ career each student should follow. A holistic approach would also include the GPA score in high school. The average GPA of each student is the best determinant of one’s academic performance since it tests different skills. While a student might be poor in math, for instance, he might be talented in critical thinking and this helps in catering for the low math score thus scoring an overall high score (McDermott, 2008).

The major benefit of using a holistic approach in student admission to colleges is enhancing diversity. This would help deal with the earlier noted issue in that Hispanics and Blacks are less likely to win college admissions if subjected to SAT and ACT tests. Even though they are good academically with a good GPA, the tested skills in SAT make them lose chances in advancing their education (Shanley, 2007). In addition, a holistic approach would help in increasing college chances for female students as well as those coming up poor socioeconomic backgrounds. This would ensure that dreams of those who perform well and score high GPAs would have a chance of advancing their dream careers. It is also notable that since SAT and ACT predicts the student’s performance in initial years in college, it does not necessarily mean that the student would perform better academically for the remaining years. As a result, using a holistic approach would help admit the best performers in colleges (Atkinson & Geiser, 2009).       


While SAT and ACT scores are highly supported since they are linked to a high probability of graduating and performing well academically in colleges, they have led to racial and gender bias. They are also disadvantageous to students from poor socioeconomic backgrounds. They have denied many deserving students with top GPA scores college admission and scholarship thus shattering the dream of many. Replacing them with a holistic approach would help in enhancing diversity in colleges. It would also ensure that students who are great academic performers but lack the skills tested in SAT and ACT get their chances in colleges.




Alon, S., & Tienda, M. (2007). Diversity, opportunity, and the shifting meritocracy in higher education. American Sociological Review, 72(4), 487-511.

Atkinson, R. C., & Geiser, S. (2009). Reflections on a century of college admission tests. Educational Researcher, 38(9), 665-676.

Hoover, E. (2012). What admissions officials think. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(34), 3-7.

Hoover, E., & Supiano, B. (2010). Wake Forest U. joins ranks of test-optional colleges. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(39), 21-36.

Keller, J., & Hoover, E. (2011). U. of California adopts sweeping changes in admissions policy. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 55(23), 33-37.

Klopfenstein, K., & Thomas, M. K. (2009). The link between advanced placement experience and early college success. Southern Economic Journal, 75(3), 873-891.

McDermott, A. B. (2008. Surviving without the SAT. Commentary, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 55(7), 41-44.

Shanley, B. J. (2007). Test-optional admission at a liberal arts college: A founding mission affirmed. Harvard Educational Review, 77(4), 429-435.