February 27, 2008
By Jordan Fugitt, Bryant, AR

I’ve been looking forward to this day for weeks. Actually, I’ve been looking forward to ending it. Every classroom has posted test dates and registration deadlines. Announced, “Those of you who need to take the ACT (for the first or seventh time) need to register by October 15th.” I carry my graphing calculator, sharpened pencils, identification, and admissions ticket as I walk into the foreign classroom. A four-hour barrage of question after question, and I’m nervous. It’s no big deal. “Read each question carefully and then mark the best answer. Does anyone have any questions? You will have forty-five minutes to complete this section. You may now begin.” I start to run my eyes quickly back and forth marking the first column—C…D…A…A…B. I’m nervous, again. “It’s no big deal,” I say. But it is.

Almost every long conversation I initiate with fellow high school students involves the ACT and our scores. I know every friend’s highest score and how many times they’ve taken it. Why so much emphasis? Being the most influential, inescapable representation of our abilities as students, the test drowns out all quieter focuses. Competition represents the founding principle and holds each student accountable for success and failure; however, one test’s reputation undermines the importance of an individual’s motivation, passion, character, and dependability. These things are sacrificed or at least overlooked on behalf of the convenience of the ACT, deeming the test the only standard for measuring a person’s “intelligence level.” So much relies on this composite number that we wait impatiently to see our judgments unfold. But it isn’t the future. Is the correlation too close? Is the marker so right to be unquestionably depended on? When concerning an education, the future should not be jeopardized because judgment has been reduced to right answers and a number. The test immediately dictates some opportunities such as financial aid and encouragement to attend my certain class of universities. The difference of one point can separate a financially struggling student who fails to hit the scholarship mark or qualify for grants from the student saying, “Yes. Full-ride, baby. Look at that.”

The judgment is overwhelming when parents push me to “get that score up.” I’ve got to. I have to reach those expectations. But expectations come easier to meet for those who are fast test takers. The ACT is a quick-paced challenge. Speed readers. But sometimes these aren’t the most qualified people. There is the engineer who meticulously measures and proofreads every calculation to build new structures. A profession dedicated to spending a lifetime slowly perfecting a special insight. When I discuss cardiovascular disease because of my heart condition, I prefer the studious physician who hesitates to rush into procedures and is careful to weigh options and examine fragile test results, checking and rechecking to make sure.

A higher ACT score does not necessarily demonstrate carelessness; however, there are people more than fitting for certain professions struggling to overcome delaying obstacles such as the badge of worth everyone carries—the ACT score. The standard stands firm and the selective salvation that an ACT holds for an individual seems to adequately represent students. Yet, the worth of a student runs much deeper. The acceptance of limiting our perception of ambitious graduates by this test is flawed and tunnel-vision for the society our educational systems can create. After all, education is an honorable goal that shouldn’t be crippled by a standard of any kind.

Until the emphasis on such a test dulls and the true potential is revealed, the answer to a person’s worth can be revealed with, “Hey, what’d you make on the ACT?”

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