Life is Tough

Within class, our criticisms of the SAT largely revolve on how a single test can control a student’s future while it simultaneously works in contrast to the very curriculum that we are taught. As we have discussed in our weekly classes, the system of standardizing questions to determine a student’s future has many ways to fail. Much of our current school work directs students to think critically and analyze a problem in order to come up with a cohesive answer based on our experiences and teachings. The ACT attempts to simplify this process through creating a single correct answer that everyone, from all sorts of different backgrounds, should always come to when faced with the same problem. Such a concept seems ridiculous, and oftentimes is. 

I completely understand many of the criticisms we have voiced on the standardized testing system. The tests drift from our core curriculum and there is a significant lack of educational support to prepare students for these tests. Combined with the pressure of how a single test score can impact a student’s future over the next four years, this forms somewhat of a nightmare scenario for anyone worrying about improving. 

Despite the flaws of such a system, this lack of assistance and immense pressure works to help students become motivated and find success through their own means, something they will need for all of their future endeavors. As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” Life is tough and unfair, and the ACT system represents one of the first major academic introductions to this fact. Students work on their own, using whatever resources and mentors they can to learn how to improve on the ACT. Guidance counselors and teachers, if one can make connections with those who truly care, provide great insight and help in finding ways to study. These individuals can only do so much, however, as helping students with standardized testing is not what they are being paid to do.

Everyone does not get to make a good score. Colleges, no matter how many there are, cannot accept everyone. The ACT, or any standardized test, may not be a good judge of intelligence or character, but it is the accepted standard for colleges and schools. Does a teacher’s rubric for an essay show top scores for the most moral and mature student? No, it grants top scores to the student who can most ably adapt to and meet the teacher’s expectations. 

I would agree with the great emphasis my high school and college admissions placed upon my ACT score. The effort I gave into improving my performance brought about results that I would not have achieved otherwise. The rewards and recognition from my high school and college were acknowledgements of this effort. However, I must recognize that I come from a position of success, through being able to find the right teachers and resources needed to do well. With the scarcity of such things, I am certain that many of my peers worked just as hard as myself and were not fortunate enough to meet the right teachers in the right place. This system has unfair and deeply harmful flaws, but they are flaws that cannot be fixed simply by switching to another system. A standard of success needs to be set, how else can such a massive population of incoming students be judged and selected? Some who deserve success will be left out, and some who do not work will be let in. Overall, the core of students who are let through to their respective colleges with scholarships and awards will be those who worked hard and taught themselves how to succeed. 


Hello From a Freshman Test Taker

My name is John, and I am currently a freshman student at Tusculum University. My current area of study is undecided with my interest focused on the realms of business, science, and history. 

My hometown is a perfect example of the small-town South, with me being born and raised in Tennessee. My schooling started out as private until 2nd grade, with me then being sent through four different public schools over my next four grades and finally settling into one public school that would see me through a steady eight years of the same friends and teachers.

My education has been largely situated around two things, making teachers happy and learning the rules of academics. This first point has taken a different outlook in the variety of different classes I have had, most significantly within English classes. I learned not to pursue my own writing style, which was inspired by the large amounts of books I constantly read as a child, but more to adapt to what each teacher wanted to see. I consistently found that this would lead to higher scores within my classes, even if myself and those I had proofread my writing had a higher view of my own personal writing rather than my work adjusted to the teacher’s preference. 

A similar fate can be seen within my experience with standardized testing, most prominently the ACT. I took my first ACT as a sophomore, a year earlier than any of my peers. My first score was relatively high compared to many of my fellow students. Over the next two years, I took the ACT six more times, improving by a total of 2 points and never dropping underneath my original score (Ask me in person for the full story on this). In the course of improving my score, I took numerous ACT practice tests, took an ACT prep class, attended school-hosted ACT camps, and worked with a tutor. Out of every single part of this instruction, all of them taught similar things: how to take the ACT. 

This included: different types of questions, how to identify them and how to most quickly and effectively answer them; which questions to skip over; the best ways to skim a passage as fast as possible; which answers to guess if one ran out of time. All of the courses I took taught this to varying degrees, something that I took to heart and dedicated myself to learning. 

While many people seem to view this as a negative factor of testing, I view it in a useful and practical, if not overly humanistic, light.

An example of this can be found within the modern workplace, where not everything is focused just on the skills and knowledge you possess, but on what your boss wants and how capable you are of providing that want. Even if this is outside of your training or knowledge, your job as an employee is to make yourself valuable and figure out how to make your task happen. My studying of how to take the ACT taught me skills that will transition perfectly into my workplace. I was not learning about the knowledge or academics that made up the questions on the ACT, I was learning how to answer them in order to get the highest end-result. 

Due to this line of thinking, I do not view my intensive study of the ACT as wasted or useless. My work earned me results, and those results earned me acceptance and rewards in the scope of college and scholarships.