Your Worth: The ACT

Your heart batters ferociously in your ears as you gnaw on your pencil with sweaty palms and restless toes. This is the day. This is the test that will determine where you go to college, where you will get a job, who you will meet, and where you will go in life. That’s a lot to be worried about as you stare at the front cover of the test booklet with the big block letters written on the front: ACT. The widely dreaded ACT is one of the biggest stresses of junior year that lingers over the heads of Blind Brook High School juniors. It’s saddening to know that ACT scores don’t actually measure intellect accurately, yet they are so stressful that they cause students to question their own minds and their own judgement. Alongside this, the ACT has been shown to have a direct correlation with parent income, and is therefore an unnecessary measure that most prospective college students have to subject themselves to. The ACT is an inaccurate representation of college preparedness and intellect in students nationwide and is unjustly causing Blind Brook students undue amounts of stress.

While the benefits of standardized testing are apparent, the stress that it causes casts a shadow over the narrow line of positives. It can be useful to compare current students to students taking the test ten years prior, or otherwise, by using standardized tests. The problem arises when too much of an emphasis is placed on these tests. The ACT is like a cookie cutter mold: if a student juts out in any way, shape, or form, they are cutting out their chances of the score they want. Say, a student is an exceptionally intelligent math student but lacks the ability to tell the difference between the subject and the object of a sentence. This student is in dire trouble when it comes to the ACT, yet they may have the potential to do great things for their community and for the world.

Harvard professor and developmental psychologist Howard Gardner compared standardized tests to a thermometer. He said, “if someone is sick, it doesn’t help to take their temperature all the time… the [same] notion is that [if] kids aren’t doing well, let’s test them over and over again” (Big Think). Gardner believes that assessments are good, but they are just assessments. The whole point is to learn from the results of an assessment and make changes to lesson plans, curriculums, and even the school system in general. Take Finland for example. The Finnish education system has done away with homework, mandated standardized tests, and has put a greater emphasis on teaching and cooperation, rather than competition. The Finnish education system is first in the world, according to the Independent. The ACT is quite the opposite of cooperative. We are living in an increasingly global and cooperative world. It is essential to be able to have communication, cooperation, and collaboration skills in order to be successful in college and in the outside world. The ACT assesses absolutely none of these skills that are crucial to be a prepared and successful human being.

As a junior, I consistently find myself questioning my worth as a human being due to the ACT. I am one of the many who are not a “cookie-cutter student.” I struggle to keep my head up when reading about octopi birth rates or when trying to figure out what the foci of an ellipse is. I’m just not a person who is easily bent out of my shape. Yet, I am a confident, intelligent, solution seeking, cooperative, and creative person who does not like to be folded to fit the needs of the state or the country. The sad truth is that I am forced to bend out of shape so that I can live the future that my parents dream for me, and the future that I dream for myself just for this test. It’s the sad reality that faces the large majority of Blind Brook juniors, but it shouldn’t be this way.

Not only are Blind Brook students finding themselves questioning their worth when it comes to these tests, but students nationwide are not even given the same opportunities that BBHS students typically have. Students whose families have lower incomes do not have the same chance to get the same score as someone who has a tutor and can take classes for the test. “The fact that these students score lower means that… test scores could be preventing some intelligent but socioeconomically disadvantaged students back from reaching their full potentials” (PrepScholar).

Now for some words from Blind Brook juniors themselves to give you a real perspective of how astonishingly stressful the process can be.* When asked what the most difficult part of going through the preparation process for the ACT was, a female junior responded, “The Rye Brook noise. Everyone talks nonstop about college and it drives me insane. I’m constantly left doubting myself because I’m surrounded by people who constantly put others down.” Another male junior concurred. He said, “The hardest part was listening to everyone around me care about this test and ask me how I did.” There is clearly a negative vibe about how students view themselves in comparison to their peers which is purposefully set up by a system which promotes competition among students. A different female student discussed whether she believes that the test is an accurate representation of intelligence. She said, “Even though I don’t think the ACT accurately measures intelligence, I think its weight is also very, very overestimated, a phenomenon which is exacerbated by how much everyone talks about it.”

A root source of stress for BB students is the ACT, yet it is an inaccurate representation of college preparedness and intellect among students.


*Answers have been kept anonymous to respect the privacy of the students.

About the author

Amanda Cappelli