While some US college leaders have delicately dubbed the SAT and ACT—the two standardized entrance exams taken by millions of high schoolers each year for US college applications—imperfect and less-than-reliable, Bard College president Leon Botstein is going a step further, calling them downright ”dumb.”
“I think both these tests are ludicrous,” Botstein said this week in a Fox News panel discussion about the redesigned SAT, which will be administered in the US for the first time on Saturday (March 5). Using multiple-choice questions to assess students in general, he said, is an outdated idea. He went on:
They don’t do anybody any good, not the taker, not the college, and America is obsessed with these tests—the college rankings are partially to blame for this. They’re dumb. They are useless. Doing well on a test has nothing to do with learning and nothing to do with actually being successful in life. It helps you get into college, and you learn absolutely nothing from it.
There are some big names—New York University, Wesleyan, Middlebury, George Washington—that have dropped the testing mandate in recent years. Of the US’s 4,000 or so colleges, more than 800, including Bard, don’t require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores to be considered for admission.
While top-ranking schools like Harvard and Princeton continue to require scores, higher education experts are increasingly questioning the real worth of standardized testing and whether numbers-based admissions systems might unfairly work in some students’ favor more than others. In the UK, to tackle “unconscious bias,” the British universities applications service will remove names from university applications from 2017.
Botstein might be the most vocal on the subject thus far, but he certainly doesn’t stand alone.