Does College Board make a game of admissions?

By By Amna Farooqi, News Editor, and Justine Stayman, Staff Resources Manager

$47 for the reasoning test.  $21 for taking one subject test, and $10 per additional test.  $13 for the PSAT.  $87 for each AP exam.  $25 for the initial CSS Profile Application and $16 per school the application is sent to.  $15 to submit AP scores to colleges, and $10 to submit SAT reasoning and subject test scores to colleges after four free submissions. $13 to get your scores by phone. $52 to get your test re-scored. And a $24 fee if you’re testing in India or Pakistan. What organization requires all of these fees?  What organization makes it almost impossible to be accepted to college without these tests?  The College Board.

Why is it and why does we take them?

The College Board, a nonprofit membership association made up of over 5,700 colleges, universities and educational organizations, states its mission is to “connect students to college success and opportunity,” namely by selling standardized tests such as the SAT, the PSAT and numerous AP exams.
It has been argued, however, that the SAT does not test knowledge or skill but only one’s ability to take the SAT, so why do students need to take it to “connect them with success”?
According to College and Career Center coordinator Luana Zimmerman, it’s because most colleges require the SAT, or the ACT, as a part of the admissions process. The ACT is owned by ACT, Inc., not College Board.
“The vast majority of four-year undergraduate institutions do require scores from a standardized admissions test such as the SAT,” College Board communications director Jennifer Topiel said. “While testing is not mandatory, it makes sense for students who plan to attend a four-year undergraduate program in the United States to take the SAT.”
Some colleges, however, are starting to move away from the standardized testing system. According to FairTest, an organization that works to eliminate the use of standardized testing in evaluating students, over 830 colleges and universities, including Wake Forest, American and George Mason, have now made submitting standardized test scores optional.
“The main reason is that the standardized tests are not needed [for] high quality university and college admissions,” said Robert Schaeffer, a public education director for FairTest. “The evidence shows that those two tests, the SAT and ACT, both under predict success for women, for students whose home language is not English, and for students who are older than 25, [but] those three groups are more than half of all students going to college nowadays.”

According to Topiel, the most reliable and valid measure of a student’s likelihood of success in college is a combination of SAT scores and high school grades. However, some college students think otherwise.
“I did take [the SAT],” said Christie Sanquist, a junior at the University of Maryland, College Park. “[But] in my experience, college is more about how much [effort] you put into school, [and] the SAT doesn’t test that.”
According to ’09 alumnus and former Observer Editor-in-Chief David Noble, who is now a sophomore at Duke University and who only took the ACT, the only reason students take the SAT and buy into the College Board’s standards of success is because there’s no other option.
“Applying to college is a process and College Board has done a good job positioning itself as a necessary part of the process,” Noble said.  “Now being at college I realize these tests have little correlation with how well you do in college. I think work ethic, intellectual curiosity, and writing ability more fairly predict how well someone will do.”
According to SAT prep teacher Natalie Lempert, who works for Princeton Review, standardized tests offer a chance for students across America to be measured against the same standard of success; they level the playing field so to speak, because not all high schools are like CHS. At the same time, these tests fail to capture a student’s true potential and aren’t very reflective of skill level.
“Our administration decided about ten years ago that we felt standardized testing is not always an accurate reflection of a student’s ability,” said Jennifer Love, a representative from Dickinson College’s Office of Admissions. Dickinson College is one of many schools that do not require students to submit SAT scores.

Besides not reflecting true ability, taking tests from one association may also distract students from what’s really important when deciding what college to attend and what to study.

“Making life decisions based on an admissions process that you cannot [be sure of] is the definition of nuttiness,” said Andrew Flagel, the dean of admissions at George Mason University. “The role of the SAT is overblown. We found [during careful review of our data that] the stronger the academic student record, the less predictive standardized test scores became.”
According to Flagel, students who take the SAT, the PSAT, numerous APs and the ACT do so generally because there’s this idea that if one doesn’t overload themselves and pay to take these tests, then he or she will not get into college.
“They create a frenzied atmosphere,” Flagel said. “That’s marketing.”

The number of students who take College Board tests each year suggests that that marketing is working.

According to College Board communications director Topiel, the SAT is administered every year to nearly three million students in 170 countries around the world, and in 2010, 1.8 million students from over 17,000 schools took 3.2 million AP exams collectively.

“Just look at the wording from the companies that offer help for getting into college,” Flagel said. “But studies that have been done [show that], for the past two decades, most students are still getting into the colleges they want to go to, and most students are still satisfied with the colleges