I am More Than My 30 ACT Score

Updated Jan 8, 2016


I thought this harrowing number was a thing of my past ― something I could essentially forget about and transcend as a freshman in college. However, to my dismay, my ACT score continues to haunt me, to impose limitations on my academic achievement and subsequent career opportunities.

I have never been a good test taker. Upon hearing the word “exam,” my mind floods with debilitating anxiety and apprehension. In a society so explicitly defined by one’s ability to perform well on standardized tests, colleges and employers blindly discriminate against students who aren’t good “test takers.” How can a measly three-hour exam be a meaningful indication of one’s past 18 years of personal and academic achievement?

The ACT, one of the most important factors used by colleges in making admissions decisions, does not serve as an accurate predictor of student aptitude and/or future success. The ACT rather serves as an indicator of one’s ability to perform well on structured tests and his/her degree of preparedness. While many affluent students begin preparing for the ACT years in advance, most students don’t have such resources, which leave them at a disadvantage in the college admissions process. If research continues to prove that standardized tests are not valid in predicting success, why did 1,666,017 students take the ACT last year? Better yet, why do colleges and employers continue to rely on ACT scores in evaluating applicants?

Alexander KentAlexander Kent

With the rise of alternative methods of testing the unique multiple intelligences of humans, it confounds me that we continue taking the same futile multiple-choice exams. Specifically, experimental data continues to confirm that students are better able to demonstrate their unique multiple intelligences through alternative, interactive formats such as presentations and digital storytelling.

While students’ scores on standardized tests can often be correlated to students’ IQs, these scores are not representative of students’ EQs. While an IQ, or intelligence quotient, is representative of one’s ability to analyze information and “connect the dots,” an EQ, or emotional quotient, is indicative of one’s ability to work in teams, be a leader and take initiative. Applicants’ EQs are just as important as their IQs, and new testing methods aimed at measuring EQs should be used by employers and colleges.

In contrast to traditional tests like the ACT, digital storytelling allows educators to better test the creative and emotional intelligences of students, which are largely neglected by traditional multiple choice exams. The effectiveness of digital storytelling is predicated on the merits of traditional oral storytelling, but it involves the amalgam of narrative, animations, photography and emotion.

Given the many components of digital storytelling, it can be seen as a more effective medium for testing student achievement and predicting future success, as it better aligns with students’ multiple intelligences. For example, rather than taking a traditional final exam, my statistics professor gave us the option to show our proficiency in the course material through the production of digital stories.

For my project, I conducted research on the study patterns of my classmates. By working on a subject I was interested in, I was able to use my knowledge of psychology in conjunction with my knowledge of statistics. My presentation consisted of animations, graphs, video interviews and statistics, which made for a more valid, cohesive argument and conclusion.

Not only did I enjoy learning and being tested through such an interactive medium, my presentation gave my professor greater insight into my mastery of the course material in context of the real world. During my presentation, my classmates were encouraged to question my methodology and the validity of my experimental conclusion, which led to an interactive, engaged classroom setting.

Through the creation of digital stories, students are able to focus on their unique strengths. For example, if one has great spatial intelligence he can use diagrams to help portray his arguments, or if one has great linguistic intelligence he can focus on the telling of narrative. Although digital storytelling requires more input from educators and resources from institutions, the merits of digital storytelling in testing multiple intelligences can’t be ignored.

Academic institutions must take a top-down approach to rectify the ways they test student achievement. By qualifying intelligence according to individuals’ unique skills, we can create a more effective, meaningful way of predicting students’ future success in different fields. Society would holistically benefit from more interactive testing methods that focus on students’ unique skills, as students would be encouraged to pursue fields that suit their unique competencies.

Although standardized tests have hindered my achievement and future job prospects, the injustices served to me pale in comparison to those served to the special needs community. Although students with Autism lack the specific intelligences to perform well on standardized tests, the autistic mind is gifted in other areas and should not be restricted by the inadequacy of standardized testing.

My autistic brother Matthew is a visual and spatial genius, but because these intelligences aren’t tested for in our modern academic world, he has not been able to fulfill his academic potential. Matthew is able to put together 1,000 piece puzzles in under an hour, build extensive railroad models and memorize entire movie scripts. Although Matt isn’t able to solve complex mathematic equations, he has many unique and valuable skills that are of use. For the benefit of our society, we should design and implement new testing methods that strive to find students’ unique skills rather than punishing them for their limited skills in certain areas.

Matthew has been able to benefit society with his unique skill set, as he designs and produces road signs for the Town of Oyster Bay. Matthew’s job requires great spatial and visual intelligence, and new testing methods that identify individuals’ unique strengths should be employed to make for a more efficient, specialized workforce. We are all limited by standardized tests. Human abilities aren’t standard and shouldn’t be tested on a standard basis.

Given the ACT’s inability to effectively test aptitude and college “readiness,” I was shocked when asked my score during an interview for a summer internship. If these tests aren’t valid for academic institutions, why do companies place such importance on students’ scores? It would be much more useful and productive if institutions gave students the opportunity to give presentations to demonstrate their unique competencies rather than their current method of blindly judging students solely on a number from 1 to 36.

If a score in the 95th percentile has already hindered my future opportunities, who benefits from standardized tests? Students with unique intelligences are largely misguided by standardized exams and are often discouraged from pursuing their unique abilities, which should be capitalized on. We must stop discouraging students from perusing their dreams by placing meaningless numbers on their personal worth. Intelligence extends beyond the quantifiable, and we should look to qualify individuals’ unique intelligences to make for a more just, efficient, progressive society.

I am more than a 30.