This piece was originally published in The Dispatch.
On an SAT answer bubble, a single vertical mark through a letter counts as a response. Why does that matter? Because drawing a short line requires two fewer seconds than shading a full bubble. Across dozens of questions, that’s precious minutes saved.
I absorbed this piece of testing arcana during years spent obsessing about the SAT. I didn’t just casually study for the nation’s college entrance exam—I became consumed by it, seeing it as my ticket to top schools and a vital totem of academic excellence.
Which is why I’ve been surprised at the growing number of colleges that—in the name of “fairness” or “equity”—have either abandoned standardized tests or dubbed them optional, including, in recent days, Columbia University. By reducing the emphasis placed on such tests, these institutions actually render the admissions process less fair and equitable—and devalue a key opportunity for students to demonstrate excellence and grit.