On Standardized Tests

Mar 29, 2022

Yesterday, MIT announced that they were reinstating the SAT/ACT requirement for undergraduate admissions after temporarily waiving the requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic. MIT found that without the standardized testing scores, they (1) were worse at predicting academic success at MIT (especially in mathematics) and (2) couldn't as accurately identify well-prepared students from less-advantaged backgrounds.

I'm first-generation college graduate. I'm not sure I would have been accepted if it weren't for my test scores. I didn't have an impressive list of extracurriculars or any athletic achievements. I came from a public school that rarely sent students to my college. A local college would have paradoxically been much more expensive (my college provided full need-based financial aid). For graduate school, testing came in handy again.

Testing just didn't help with educational opportunities, but career ones as well. Google often gets pushback about its whiteboard coding interviews. It might not be perfectly representative of the skills required for the job, but it beats a more subjective process. I applied to Google without knowing anyone there – you're at a disadvantage without a referral (50% of hires are referrals), not only in getting an interview, but having someone to ask about the process.

Testing is far from the perfect answer, but I'm thankful for the opportunities it has given me.