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Do colleges put too much stock in standardized test scores?

Updated on July 10, 2011

Let's say we have Jim and Amy, two high school students.

Jim is an average student. He wants to get into college. What should he focus on most? How does he get into that good school he's been dreaming of attending?

Jim starts talking to his high school counsellor. The man is very knowledgeable and has helped hundreds of students get into their dream schools. Jim begins following his counsellor's advice and focuses on preparing for the SATs. Coming from a rich family he affords to learn all the tricks, he practices answering questions in any format, he takes the standardized tests again and again until he gets a very, very high score. Jim is satisfied with himself, knowing full well that his effort will definitely pay off.

Jim begins preparing his application. He proudly encloses his hard earned standardized test scores. The rest of the application is a breeze, he buys several college essays off the Internet and chooses the very best. He sends the envelope, feeling proud that he's on his way to college. Boy, he will definitely enjoy his summer!


Amy is a very talented student. She was a member of the debate club ever since 9th grade, she is active in many student organizations, she constantly provides fresh content for the school paper. She spends at least 2 hours every day reviewing what was taught and preparing for the next day. Every Saturday she flips burgers at a fast-food restaurant, trying to save enough money to buy herself a better guitar.

Surely, Amy aims high and starts preparing for the standardized tests. She aces all the subjects necessary for knowledge of the subjects being tested. Being an active debater she struggles to compose an awesome essay as well. She takes the SAT only once because she cannot afford a re-test. Despite her very best efforts, her scores are only slightly above average. She is angry because she knows full well how much she studied the subject matter.

She sends the average test results, the great essay, documents her extracurricular activities. Still she worries. Her test results don't seem to be a reflection of her hard work. Her summer is spent at home, every day checking the mailbox for a reply.


Meanwhile, at College X, the admission committee assembles. They carefully review the application files of many, many students applying to their competitive college. They work hard and manage to fill all but one place. They have a tough decision ahead of them. Jim or Amy?

They of course hold a debate, they put everything in balance, Amy's love for extracurricular activities, Jim's near perfect essay, Amy's good grades, Jim's AMAZING test results, Amy's average test results, Amy's highly argumentative essay. It's a tough decision but the last place goes to Jim. His near perfect test scores reflect his superiority.


Jim learned how to take the test, while Amy studied for the test. At the end of the day, the better test taker won.

Do you think colleges put too much stock in standardized test scores?


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    • Tiger Mom profile image

      Tiger Mom 5 years ago from New York

      Great hub, Stefancando. I enjoyed the way you presented Jim and Amy's cases. Unfortunately, your outcome is often what occurs in the Admissions Office of many colleges. Freshmen seats are limited so standardized scores are given a great deal of weight. Keep up the good writing!

    • mmt2966 profile image

      mmt2966 6 years ago

      Great article...You make some good points. With a new baby boy, we'll have plenty to look forward to.. Maybe he will just get a scholarship.

    • spotlight19 profile image

      Jennifer Pena 7 years ago from California

      Nice hub there in fact this story seems sooo similar Amy took the test and even though she got good grades in all of her classes she still did not do good in the test even though she truly studied so I think that colleges are putting a lot of exaggeration in standerized tests.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 7 years ago from Virginia

      Interesting hub...I am sorry to say...but lots of Amy's will be waiting during the summer for a letter that will not be coming.