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“What did you get on the SAT? The ACT? Come on, just tell me.” A question so simple left me utterly helpless, doubting my intelligence and my self-worth. I felt immense shame and guilt presenting my scores, feeling as though I am nothing but a number. I never was able to perfect my memorization skills while taking these biased placement tests. I often questioned if I was being put into socioeconomic or racial boxes based on the scores I received. These exams provided little to no real measure of one’s intelligence and now with the UC system’s suspension of the ACT and SAT requirement, we are one step closer to ridding the education system of inequity. 

The SAT and ACT are flawed to the core, and bias is exacerbated in the entire process. High school students have to pay to simply register for the exams and to send their scores to their dream colleges, which presents an inequity gap between students. Other high school students also struggle with lack of reliable transportation to travel to and from test sites. Not only is a student expected to do well their first time, but they are encouraged to take the exam again in order to raise their score and therefore their chances of being accepted to universities. Students who do not have the financial means to pay to take the tests multiple times are at a disadvantage.

One of the ways a student can improve their test scores is through vigorous additional preparation that is not wallet-friendly. Some of the most notorious corporations which flourish off tutoring money are Princeton Review, Kumon and Kaplan. On average, a parent pays about $1,000 for these courses. Wealth and socioeconomic standing is a key distinction depicted by these exams. Only those with the comfort of wealth have the capacity to enrich their children with these skewed concepts of education. This leaves those who cannot afford these additional preparations at a disadvantage.

Income is not the only bias these tests have confirmed to be an obstacle for those reaching toward higher education. Race has been institutionalized in education since Americans internalize it as their main form of identity. This presents another barrier to the people of color taking these tests. These tests can be compared to the U.S. preventing African Americans from voting by changing their answers constantly during their literacy test. This country of stolen land does not want to see people of color thriving. Rolling Stone’s example of the adversity score shows the need for a solution to the evident favoritism toward white, middle- and upper-middle-class applicants of these tests.

In an interview with The Highlander, first-year biology major Vidhya Kumaraswamy shared how she was “fortunate enough to go through tutoring for the ACT, but it did not make the situation any less stressful.” That is the case for many students, despite resources being provided to them. The fear of underperformance eats students alive. Furthermore, these tests can induce mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. 

This same distaste toward the College Board is shared by Juan Sanchez, a first-year political science major. Hailing from a low-income household where he is the first to attend college, Sanchez disclosed the uselessness of these tests and negativity they created. Sanchez stated, “These four-hour exams gave us a number that hurt many young aspiring student dreams, causing them to stop chasing them. I remember being so worried about not getting into a good college because of my low SAT.” The shattering of a student’s confidence leaves an empty vessel, causing them to always rethink their worth. 

It was not until a pandemic occurred that the UC began to finally make changes to stop requiring student applicants to take these exams. Despite the acknowledgment of bias being present in their tests, the College Board continued to implement these proctored, life-draining exams. While creating stress for students and continually draining their bank accounts, the College Board franchise grew in revenue by feeding off the new normalized value of a college degree.

By suspending the SAT and ACT as requirements for applicants, the UC is taking a step toward the just and righteous path. The suspension of the SAT and ACT requirement does not rectify every past student’s trauma and struggle who let these tests determine their value as a person. However, the suspension of these exams is a decision that will begin to ensure true equity throughout the nation.

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