You don’t need to be a communist to realize that our so-called standardized tests aren’t fair. We’ve already catalogued a few weaknesses of standardized tests, but additional critiques abound. Most glaringly, it seems that standardized tests do as good a job of measuring wealth as intelligence – not exactly something we want to reward, especially given our current rates of income inequality.
In the face of an industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars, making any sort of difference can seem impossible. But even on a small scale, there are a number of ways that you personally can make a stand against the unfairness of standardized testing.
Boycott standardized tests
This is the biggest and most obvious solution. If you hate the game, don’t play it – a winning move, indeed. By refusing to take the test (and explaining your rationale to others), you’re making a pretty big statement about the limitations of standardized tests and the strengths of your beliefs. Especially if you approach standardized tests through the lens of privilege, choosing not to take the SAT/ACT is a pretty radical commitment to equality.
But more realistically speaking, if you’re unwilling to forgo the tests entirely, at least…
Support test-optional schools
FairTest has a list of all the colleges and universities in America who do not require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. For one reason or another, these institutions have decided that SAT/ACT scores aren’t useful in the selection process. Often, they realize and acknowledge that SATs don’t predict one’s success in college, which itself often depends on variables the SAT can’t test – like leadership, perseverance, and creativity.
Consider adding one of the institutions on FairTest’s website to your own college list. Research them, visit them if you’re able, and maybe even apply to them. These actions reassure these colleges that they’re making a good decision by not requiring test scores.
Avoid prep classes
Even if you have your heart set on a school that requires standardized tests, though, you can still make a stand by refusing to buy into the test-prep industry. It’s thought that one of the reasons why standardized test scores correlate with income levels is because wealthier students are able to afford expensive test prep classes (and then retake the test multiple times). By avoiding these test prep classes (even if you can afford them), you’re in effect creating a more level playing field for the test.
Use secondhand prep books.
Even though organizations like College Board are technically non-profit, they’ve been criticized for awarding suspiciously high amounts of money to their senior management. It may be tempting to drop $17 on a shiny new review book stamped with the College Board logo, but by doing so, you’re just supporting their industry. Review books can be helpful for standardized tests, but you don’t need to buy them.
Generally speaking, review books don’t vary much from company to company or from year to year – and as a result, chances are your local library has quite a selection of helpful review books to choose from. Otherwise, if you want something more permanent, approach upperclassmen about buying their review books from them.
Volunteer as a tutor
If nothing else, volunteering as a tutor is an easy way to personally remedy some of the inequality that plagues standardized tests. Check sites like Idealist and Volunteer Match to see if there are any opportunities in your community, or ask around if you don’t see any. Your own teachers and local community centers are both good places to start. Tutoring for standardized tests doesn’t just help fight inequality – it also give you an opportunity to sharpen your own test-taking skills!
The shortcomings of standardized tests are no secret – but luckily, you have the power to change them.