Standardized testing: is it really worth the effort?

Graphic by Shivani Mudhol

Graphic by Shivani Mudhol

 In 2020, the SAT and ACT exams were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following cancellations, many colleges began to question the necessity of standardized tests. Subsequently, for the next few years, many schools will be going test-optional for tests like the SAT, ACT and AP tests. According to, the goal was to have “[a] greater opportunity for students to focus on academic performance and, to take it a step further, pursuing courses and activities that match their interests.” However, for me and many others, taking these exams may boost their chances of getting accepted into school, as many applications face harsher criticism when scores are omitted. However, standardized tests do not come without a cost, not only in the literal sense, but the high workload and stress that is often associated with such tests begs the question: are standardized tests really necessary?

SAT, ACT and AP tests are notoriously expensive and typically range from $50 to $85, and upwards of $100 for AP tests. After the pandemic, financial struggles have been more apparent, as unemployment rates skyrocketed. Personally, my family has been affected by the pandemic financially, so there is a lot of pressure for me to do well the first time, as these tests boast a high price tag. Furthermore, many students take these tests more than once to improve their scores, only adding more to their expenses. Piling on even more to the bill, extra help, such as coaches or tutors, only heighten the financial burden. 

On top of the financial burdens, the stress and workload that goes into studying for tests add up. The majority of high school juniors take standardized tests, like the SAT and ACT, on top of all of their difficult classes and extracurriculars. For some students, studying for these tests and getting good scores is not too much trouble. However, those who need extra help for it will have to put in even more work and hours through tutoring and taking practice tests that can take up to three hours. The time investment for a score seems valueless until one receives a positive score. It takes a lot of time, something which many do not have.

Despite being test-optional, these scores still hold importance to college applications today, and the societal pressure on students to score well is at an all-time high. It is up to the person to realize their limits and figure out if taking or not taking it is a step they want to choose, and if they and their family are financially ready to do so. Ultimately, standardized tests are blanket tests that people believe evaluates a student’s intelligence or their potential. It is about time we look past just the test scores as if they were trophies for intelligence, which they are not.