Standardized testing a rigged game

Image by: Keith Saunders

Test scores that make or break entrance to graduate programs give an unfair leg up to privileged students.

Most Canadian post-grad professional programs require a score from a standardized test, be it the LSAT, MCAT, GMAT or GRE.

It makes sense why graduate schools want to establish a base line proficiency and intelligence for admissions. That way, reputable schools won’t waste time on candidates who don’t have what it takes.

But the current standardized testing system may pose an undue burden on low-income students, giving privileged applicants an unfair advantage. 

Standardized tests have increasingly become a test that one can study for. Which means they’re tests you can pay to do well on. You can buy study materials, pay a tutor or take an expensive prep course.

Students who repeatedly practice for a test have a leg up, compared to someone whose second job denies them the luxury of writing multiple practice tests a day.

Moreover, low-income students often can’t take the test repeatedly to improve their score, as is often done by students with greater financial resources.

When it comes down to it, time and money are barriers to professional education that have nothing to do with aptitude. To end a cycle of privilege and open up professional degrees to underprivileged members of our society, these barriers need to be reduced.  

We can’t expect graduate schools to stop testing for baseline knowledge. But they should at least put less weight on a test that’s fundamentally skewed to favour privileged applicants — especially considering the test’s inaccuracies.

These tests are administered by third-party companies that don’t necessarily have a vested interest in how well high-scoring individuals do in graduate school.

To being with, most standardized tests don’t test innate intelligence, which is nearly impossible to measure in this format.

In most cases these tests are outdated, and often fail to adequately reflect whether a candidate will do well in graduate school.

While the workload involved in studying for a test may prepare an applicant for the crushing workload of graduate school, a high score doesn’t necessarily indicate whether someone would be a good lawyer or doctor.

There are many applicants who are willing to sacrifice more, work harder, and yet their scores don’t reflect this commitment in comparison to those who are more privileged and are afforded advantages.

A solution to closing this gap is to give more emphasis to other elements of applications, from reference letters to a personal essay.

Getting a real picture of an applicant’s worth should be based on a more nuanced context than a number — especially one that can be bought.

Journal Editorial Board 


graduate school admissions, privilege, Standardized Testing

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Queen's Journal

© All rights reserved.

Back to Top
Skip to content