University admission test a non-starter

Canadian universities shouldn’t institute an admissions test; doing so would simply add additional hurdles and stress, particularly for students from low-income backgrounds.

An editorial published last Thursday in the Globe and Mail entitled “Why top Canadian universities should add an admissions test” framed admissions tests as an “extra dose of excellence”. The piece argued that while “standardized tests are a mixed bag”, an admissions test for upper-tier schools would gauge student “sincerity and commitment” to higher education.

Standardized tests are a flawed model of student assessment. An education system that privileges standardized testing results in “teaching to the test” and more creative and personalized learning is lost in the process. While the editorial falls far short of calling for a full American-style SAT system, the introduction of a university admissions test would mean a rise of these tendencies in Canada.

Jurisdictions that rely heavily on standardized tests and entrance exams have significant problems with unequal outcomes. In the United States, an entire industry caters to elementary and middle school students who need good SAT scores or success on entrance exams for elite public schools. Standardized tests exacerbate inequality because tests preparation courses and materials are expensive.

High school students applying to Canadian universities have enough to worry about without the addition of an admissions test. If young people are already stressed and anxious at high levels, the addition of an admissions test will only exacerbate those problems.

The addition of an admissions test at “elite Canadian universities” seems like a solution looking for a problem. It’s not apparent there are huge issues with the admission process at most schools. The burden of proof is on the shoulders of those advocating for this change; amateurish appeals to “excellence” aren’t nearly enough.

Standardized testing should only be instituted when absolutely necessary. We shouldn’t burden Canadian high school students with more anxiety and erect larger barriers in front of those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The busybodies who want admissions tests for Canadian universities should go back to the blackboard.

— Journal Editorial Board

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