The Instigator
zach12
Pro (for)
Losing
13 Points
The Contender
Grape
Con (against)
Winning
17 Points

Standardized tests are the best way for colleges to decide on potential students.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/18/2010 Category: Education
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,761 times Debate No: 11228
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (6)

 

zach12

Pro

I stand in affirmation that standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT are the best way for universities to discern possible students.

~reasons~
Objectivity: These tests show no favoritism and are the same for every tester on the same test day.

Practicality: they are very practical and cheap, as a typical ACT test-taking costs merely $32.
Grape

Con

Resolution Negated: That standardized tests are the best way for universities to discern potential students.

Examination of the Resolution: One concern I have with the resolution is whether it is meant to imply it is the best way to determine which students to accept or which applications to consider. This does not make much of a difference either way, but it is worthy of consideration. I chose to remove the stipulation "such as the ACT and SAT" because there are many other tests (AP, CLEP, SAT II) and if my opponent wishes to bring those up I would be willing to address them.

Introduction: To start off, I do not believe that standardized tests are necessarily a bad way of rating students, only that they are not the best. Though I believe there I benefits, I will leave those too my opponent. I will focus my the first part of my argument on the flaws of standardized tests and the second part on the merits of other selection factors.

C1: These tests show no favoritism and are the same for every tester on the same day.

If by this my opponent means to imply that tests is objective, than it is a fair point of view. However, score trends indicate that not everyone scores equally well on standardized tests across demographics (1). Females, Hispanics, and African Americans all score lower on average on the SAT then white males. However, this discrepancy is not reflected in college grades. Female college freshman actually have higher GPA's than their male peers, on average. Considering the fact that the test is meant to test aptitude for college-level study, this is a significant problem.

C2: These tests are very practical and cheap.

The tests may be cheap to administer, but they are not cheap for students. The SAT test costs $45, and it is more if the student is from a country besides the US, registers late, or wants a detailed score report (1). A student's GPA costs them nothing to acquire and regards of its administrative costs, it must be computed for class rank and graduation purposes anyway.

I now offer a few objections to standardized tests:

C3: They provide an advantage to those with more money.

There are two main reasons why the wealthy benefit from standardized tests. One is that they can afford to pay for books and other study aids that poor students cannot afford. Personally, I improved my SAT score by around 200 points by studying out of a book. Granted, it wasn't that expensive and I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but for those who are struggling to pay the bills it simply isn't an option. For those that have a great deal of money to spend, special study courses for different tests are available and they certainly seem to work. The second reason why it is beneficial to those with more money is that they can afford to take the test more times. Universities only consider a student's best scores (rightfully so) which results in many taking the tests many times. It is easy for those with more money to afford to take the test more times.

C4: Standardized tests encourage poor work

Standardized tests have timed segments that are far too short for effective work. The math sections of the ACT and SAT are more focused on answering many simply questions quickly than answering harder questions correctly. On the SAT, students are given 25 minutes for 20 math questions in the 2nd section. Needless to say, not many of these questions are extremely hard and students don't have time to check their work thoroughly for accuracy. The essay section is another area where this problem is most evident (2). An MIT professor found that longer essays were consistently awarded higher scores, regardless of content. He claimed it was possible to predict the grade of the essay based solely on length. The time to write the essay is only 25 minutes. The idea of writing a serious essay at a university in 25 minutes is preposterous, the essay simply encourages the students to write as much as possible in a short time.

Now, here are some other factors that university admissions officials ought to consider to be as important or more important than standardized tests:

C5: Admissions Essays

Admissions essays give a fuller understanding of the students' intellectual capabilities by showing what their work is like when they are able to put a great deal of time and effort into it. They also give a more personal understanding of a student that allows admissions officials to gain a fuller understanding of who the student is and how well they might fit in and contribute to the community. Some universities that focus on mathematics and science, including the prestigious California Institute of Technology, put a higher focus on test scores then essays because they believe it to be a better way of gauging competence in these fields. To some extent they may be right, but college essays are becoming more open ended and provide more opportunities for students to write about their aptitude in more technical fields. To many Liberal Arts colleges, this is not even a concern.

C6: Grade Point Average

One of the main criticism of GPA is that it does not always reward intelligence. However, a good work ethic is just as important as intellect in a challenging college environment and they should be considered equally at the very least. Also, maintaining a high GPA requires regular high test scores in class and not one high quality performance on a single day. It can therefore be considered a better measure of long term success. Colleges look at GPA in comparison to other students at the same school, so if a teacher was unfair and awarded no A's, a student would not be penalized for a B+.

Conclusion:

Though standardized tests are a useful way to determine what students are good candidates for a university, they suffer from many flaws. There are other aspects of a students application that ought to be considered at least equal to standardized tests, if not more important.

Sources:

(1) http://www.fairtest.org...
(2) http://www.nytimes.com...
Debate Round No. 1
zach12

Pro

zach12 forfeited this round.
Grape

Con

All arguments extended.
Debate Round No. 2
zach12

Pro

Thanks, grape, for answering so quickly and succinctly.

Responses to:

C1: My opponent's sources do confirm that females with lower SAT scores than males do better in college study than said males, however no margin is offered and I can only hope to assume it is a slight discrepancy. Even if there was a large difference, a trend could still be easily found and colleges could easily adjust their admission policies. For example, a college could know that a male who gets a 2000 on the SAT would do about the same in college as a female with a 1900 or 1950. Just because they are not equal for the two genders (and other ethnicities) does not mean that the scores do not give the university valuable information.

C2: I think that $45 dollars is a relatively low amount of money to pay, especially considering the plentitude of benefits it can give. Paying that $45 can earn you scholarships of thousands of dollars. Even paying (I'll make up a value) $70 to take the test if you're from another country, want a score report, etc. is worth it.

And while a student's GPA may cost them "nothing", it is a very peculiar measuring device. I have been to two high schools so far and there was a HUGE difference between them. One school considered a 4.0 earning score a 93%. The other required a 95%. In addition, the teachers at the 95% school were much more picky and tougher than in the other school. In the 93% school, a 4.0 was a piece of cake. Now I have to work much, much harder and still have trouble keeping my GPA over 3.8. My whole point is that a GPA is a very subjective measuring device.

C3: While it may be to a richer person's benefit in regards to retaking the test, this is not the case with study materials. Many High Schools will give you some sort of free booklet to help you with the test, my school included.

Richer kids have an advantage no matter what method you use to measure their aptitude for college study. Richer kids can afford to get help with school through a program such as Sylvan, helping them with their GPA in ways poorer kids can't afford.

C4: What is this "effective work" you're talking about? Students taking these tests aren't required to figure out complicated algorithms nor do they need to conduct research or prepare for a presentation. They simply need to show that they understand the concepts they have learned in school and that they can apply them. In the math section, you get a full minute per question, plenty of time to figure out every problem in the test. In response to your point that students taking the SAT don't have time to thoroughly check their work for accuracy, I ask you this: would the results mean anything if they were? In the college and working worlds, the ability to do problems quickly and accurately without double and triple-checking their work is an absolute necessity.

I agree that the essay systems are flawed with standardized tests. However, most colleges do not give the essay section a whole lot of credence. The multiple-choice questions are still the best way to quantify the student's ability.

C5: Admissions essays take much longer to evaluate, are often exaggerated, and allow more bias. Standardized tests provide a quick non-biased, easily comparable measure of the student's ability.

C6: GPA certainly does not reward intelligence and often doesn't involve an overly large amount of work ethic. A student can sluff off and take easy classes to maintain a high GPA. Your statement that colleges compare GPA's within schools is true, but only in a broad sweep. They almost never look at the average grade awarded for a single class or for a single teacher. So if a teacher is unfair and awards no A's, as was your example, this can hurt our student's GPA. While another student could simply not take the classes of that teacher and unfairly get a higher GPA, while taking a class with a less challenging teacher.

Sources:

http://www.stat.columbia.edu...
http://www.k12academics.com...
http://www.vahomeschoolers.org...
Grape

Con

Thanks to my opponent for coming back to offer a good argument in spite of the forfeited round. A forfeited round often means the debate is over and I am happy to see this was not the case. Going on...

C1: I do not argue that the SAT does not give colleges useful information, only that is is not as unbiased and objective as it is made out to be. My opponent argues that colleges could simply adjust the scores, but if it were an ideal admissions test and there would be no need to adjust the scores. Also, the disparity is far more than the slight discrepancy that my opponent suggested. The average SAT score for all students last year was 1509. The average score for African Americans was 1276 and the average score for Asian Americans was 1623. This is a huge gap. The average score for students whose parents made over $200,000 a year was 1702 and the average score for students whose parents made less than $20,000 a year was 1321. (1) The difference between the sexes was much smaller than this but statistically significant. The differences across races and income was incredibly huge. It's not something you can just iron out my weighing scores.

C2: Our respective opinions about whether $45 dollars is a reasonable cost for the test isn't really relevant. The fact is some people have to be careful with their money just to make sure they can get by and spending $45 on a test can be a burden, especially when taking the test multiple times is an advantage.

Also, GPA may be a 'peculiar' measuring tool at times, but colleges have access to information to judge how hard it is to get high grades at various schools. Harder courses, including honors and AP courses, are also often weighed to give students whose grades may be hurt by harder work a boost. An though it may still at times be a 'subjective' measuring device, the discrepancies in the SAT are quite extreme as well.

C3: I can say with a relative degree of certainty that a 300 page book that costs $30 dollars will help a great deal more than a free booklet. SAT books provide lists of hundreds of works to know and allow students to gain experience answering the questions. Familiarity with the test can be very important since for the top students, 'careless errors' were listed as the main cause of mistakes and math questions (1).

Also, may be true that students with more money get higher GPA's as well. However, I am only trying to negate the argument that the SAT has an advantage over GPA by being more objective. If they are both bad in the same area than that's fine as long as it shows that the SAT is not superior in it's alleged area of advantage.

C4: "Students taking these tests aren't required to figure out complicated algorithms nor do they need to conduct research or prepare for a presentation. They simply need to show that they understand the concepts they have learned in school and that they can apply them." This is exactly my point. Answering 20 simple math questions in 25 minutes without making careless errors is not a gauge of who will do well in an elite engineering program, or even who can do their taxes without errors given enough time. Rapidly scribbling an essay in 25 minutes does not show who can craft a well written research paper. The multiple choice questions on the CR give a vague idea of the student's vocabulary (there are around 15 vocab questions per test so it's kind of a crapshoot) but the passages suffer the same fault as the math. They require you to read a short passage quickly and good a superficial understanding of the author's message while not retaining any of it. For college level reading assignments, students have as much time as they are willing to alot to reading and are expected to finish reading with a detailed understanding which will be retained. In summary, the test is not testing the skills that students actually need in college.

C5: I have disproved the idea that standardized tests are unbiased. 20-40% swings in scores do not occur randomly without any bias. Of course it is possible for an admissions essay to be biased or exaggerated, but on the SAT essay you could write that Barack Obama was born in 1876, the year the Revolutionary War ended, and not lose credit because it is not graded for accuracy. Furthermore, colleges often request graded writing samples to compare the style of writing to admissions essays and insure that no cheating has gone on.

C6: A student can take easy classes and maintain a high GPA, but their grades will not be weighed and they will have a weak resume. There is going to be the occasional teacher that is brutal and can't be accounted for, but more often than not these teachers do teacher harder courses at are weighted. Also, maintaining a high GPA certainly requires hard work and intelligence if you want to maintain a resume that selective colleges were considered. It's not a matter of having hard courses or having a high GPA, in order to get considered a universities that are highly selective you have to have both. For colleges that tend to accept a lot of students that do not take honors, AP, IB, or other higher level courses, the issue of how accurate a selection method is isn't that important because they don't have to select accurately anyway. GPA also requires a long term commitment, the ability to do a wide variety of work, and suffers from no weaknesses that cannot also be attributed to the SAT.

Conclusion:

I do not maintain that GPA is a flawless way of doing admissions, but the fact is 3.5 years of l work will tell you more about a student than 3.5 hours in a testing center. The SAT is not a pure, perfect test of intelligence, it suffers from extreme bias and does not test the skills that college profs want in their students. GPA is a more accurate way to approximate this. Though it can be inflated falsely, if this is done that colleges can easily tell the student does not step up to challenges, which is usually a deal-breaker for admissions at schools that are truly selective.

Sources:

(1) http://www.usatoday.com...
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
A good debate. It's a little awkward having the critical "best single way" clarification in the comments rather than the challenge, but Con seemed to accept it.

I thought the best argument was Pro's, that a high GPA can be obtained by taking easy courses, so it is not a good measure. Some schools may have generous or harsh grading standards reflected in GPA. The argument that standard tests do not guarantee equal outcomes for women or minorities is not a good one. Admitting randomly would provide proportional representation, but it would not be a good method for getting the best students. Incidentally, women are 55% of college students, so some schools are starting affirmative action for males.

SAT tests were invented by a Harvard guy to increase the number of poorer students who showed the intelligence to do college work and could be accepted on that basis. They were originally designed to measure intelligence rather than achievement. In recent years they have moved mor towards measuring achievement.

Pro loses conduct for the forfeit.
Posted by zach12 7 years ago
zach12
I'm so sorry. I got halfway through writing my response and then I was hit by a tsunami of work.
Posted by Grape 7 years ago
Grape
Please do not take my two suggestions to be a combination. Either is acceptable on it's own.

P.S. I argue this with a 3.6 GAP and a 2310 SAT. Needless to say I would rather if you were right but reality does not always work in my favor.
Posted by zach12 7 years ago
zach12
I mean the best single way. so please don't say a combination of things would be the best way
Posted by Frish 7 years ago
Frish
I would like to take this, but I would have to wait until after the weekend to respond, and would rather not forfeit a round.
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by Donutdude143 7 years ago
Donutdude143
zach12GrapeTied
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Vote Placed by Awed 7 years ago
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Vote Placed by zach12 7 years ago
zach12
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Vote Placed by lambda 7 years ago
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Vote Placed by Grape 7 years ago
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