What is the Relevance of Entrance Exams for Admissions to Undergraduate and Postgraduate Courses

EssayArgumentative Essay


By 9th or 10th grade, US students are expected to start preparing for college. They start taking enrichment classes or reviews to increase their SAT or ACT scores , as well as take on internships. College applications are known to be a stressful time for high school students. Apart from the pressure to get into a good school, these students are also stressed about the workload the application process entails. The majority of stress and pressure revolves around the college entrance exams, which will decide whether they can apply to college and to certain institutions. Similarly, college graduates who wish to pursue a postgraduate degree are also expected to spend time preparing for qualifying exams amid their theses and/or professional responsibilities, which are meant to help departments decide if the student is ready for postgraduate education. Although entrance exams and qualifying exams have been part of the college and postgraduate application process, their relevance and efficacy in assessing a candidate’s abilities and qualifications are increasingly becoming more questionable. This argumentative paper presents arguments supporting the stand that entrance and qualifying exams are an inadequate method for assessing a student’s qualifications because they are subject to socio-economic bias and reinforce exclusivity, income inequality, and systemic issues within the academe. 

Definition of Entrance Exam and Qualifying Exams

Entrance exams and qualifying exams are both requirements for students who wish to enter an institution, such as a college or university. Entrance exams are the requirement for high school students entering college while qualification exams are the requirement for college students or master’s graduates who wish to continue their postgraduate degree. Both exams are standardized to a certain extent. The college entrance exams are standardized at the national level, with only a few institutions offering assessment tests depending on the state. In contrast, qualifying exams for postgraduate degrees tend to differ per university and even department, though with some standard elements such as oral presentations in front of a panel. 

Entrance and qualifying exams were established to allow institutions to assess a student’s abilities and chances of achieving university success . Test scores are often used to verify the truth in a student’s grades (The Times Editorial Board, 2021). These exams were established to serve as an objective way to assess a student’s readiness to enter a four-year college. Furthermore, it allows universities to choose the best and most suitable students that would enable them to uphold their values and standards of education. These exams are an efficient way to distinguish high-performing students with higher chances of success in college from among millions. 

Why Entrance Exam and Qualifying Exams Are No Longer Relevant

Like most standardized testing, entrance exams and qualifying exams have a negative reputation. Both entrance and qualifying exams are [believed] to be inefficient and inaccurate methods for determining a candidate’s abilities. These exams, due to their standardized nature, are quite limited in capturing the diverse abilities of students because some abilities simply cannot be assessed through such exams. More importantly, these exams are subject to socio-economic bias and only reinforce exclusivity, income inequality, and systemic issues within the academe. In the succeeding main body paragraphs, the author shall expound on these reasons why entrance exams and qualifying exams are no longer relevant.

Entrance exams are a form of standardized exam that tests various skills and knowledge. These exams are always taken in written form. Meanwhile, qualifying exams for postgraduate students comprise both written and oral tests that assess the same. 

Both entrance and qualifying exams are designed as standardized exams that test the various skills and knowledge of the candidate. While these tests are carefully designed to assess a student’s readiness for college or postgraduate studies, they cannot test every field of education. These tests tend to focus on information retention and logical reasoning while failing to assess a student’s ability to apply their knowledge to a real-world scenario, or their creativity, abilities in art, music, foreign languages, and many other skills. 

Because entrance exams and qualifying exams have been the norm for so many years, industries that prepare students for these have formed. It is not uncommon for parents to enroll their children in college preparatory schools or private schools with higher rates of college admission rates. In addition, there are test prep services that further help students practice for SATs, ACTs , etc. These schools and review services increase a student’s chances of getting a higher score (Hyman, 2017; The Times Editorial Board, 2021). But these are only available to those who can afford them. Those, who cannot, will have to study on their own. What this means is that those who are already financially advantaged are given further advantages over others in their chances of getting into a good school. 

It is common knowledge that people of color are usually at a disadvantage socio-economically speaking, which also impacts their educational outcomes. Due to both blatant and systemic racism, many people of color struggle with the rising rate of poverty , mass incarceration, and so on. As a result, many children also struggle at school, and most likely not be able to afford review services that could have helped improve their test scores (Rucisnki and Goodman, 2022). The National Center for Education Statistics reports that Black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native score lower than their White and Asian counterparts (2021). Without access to quality education and reviews, students of color are put at a further disadvantage—unable to score higher and, possibly, struggle to get accepted into a good college that would have helped them move up economically (Hyman, 2017). Furthermore, because of such disadvantages, for individuals from marginalized groups must work harder and excel in order to be at the same level as their more advantaged counterparts. 

Thus, entrance exams and qualifying exams only reinforce socio-economic and racial inequalities. People who are already at an advantage are given further advantage. By using these exams as a way to filter out students, colleges and universities are merely filtering out students who are socio-economically disadvantaged (Rossiter, Ali, and Moscoviz, 2020). As a result, students who cannot afford a good school or review will most likely be unable to get into a college that could help them improve their economic situation more easily.

One of the main characteristics of both entrance exams and qualifying exams is that they have a rigid format that supposedly addresses the most important elements institutions require of candidates or students. Apart from being inaccurate methods for assessing a student’s capabilities as previously discussed, this format also makes the exams exclusive. It does not make room for accommodations for those with disability since it has been set up that way for years (University of California, 2020). Anyone with a disability that needs accommodation may have to go out of their way to request such accommodations, and the processes are not always clear (Alyssa, 2019). Accommodations for students with disability has been a controversial topic of debate for so many years, with some progress. Still, the standard format of entrance exams and qualifying exams makes it apparent that these individuals with disabilities exist in the margins and require special efforts to be accommodated. As a result, while some individuals with disabilities may request special accommodations, others may not. The lack of accommodations for those with disabilities as a standard part of the exam format is more likely to discourage others and leave them to take the exams with disadvantages. For example, an individual with speech impediments is more likely to be disproportionately affected by anxiety in oral-based exams and, therefore, likely to perform worse than those who did not have the same disadvantages (Alyssa, 2019). Thus, when the entrance and qualifying exams are administered without prior accommodations for candidates with disabilities, it reinforces the issues that already make it difficult for people with disabilities to enter and complete college or postgraduate studies, such that it becomes but another manifestation of discrimination in the modern world.

Counter-Argument: Entrance Exams And Qualifying Exams Are Necessary

Proponents of entrance exams and qualifying exams insist that these are necessary steps to ensure the quality of education in universities and colleges. Likewise, it encourages primary and high schools to maintain high standards of education to allow their students to get into the best universities and colleges (The Times Editorial Board, 2021). All in all, it is purported to encourage better education standards for children and young adults.

While this was true in the past, entrance exams and qualifying exams have been proven to be insufficient in today’s diverse world. Furthermore, these standardized exams have not helped elevate or maintain educational standards. Rather, it encouraged teachers and schools to teach for the tests—they care more about students scoring high in various tests rather than that they learn the necessary knowledge and skills they need in life. All these are but detrimental in the long-term for the next generation.

If education boards and institutions insist on maintaining the entrance exam and qualifying exam requirements, it is imperative that these be reformed to become more inclusive and that it is capable of presenting an accurate and unbiased assessment of students’ capabilities.


While the purpose of entrance exams and qualifying exams is to assess the qualifications of an individual, its rigid format fails to present an accurate assessment of these qualifications. A well-off student is bound to perform well because they will be prepared for the challenges presented by the exams. Thus, even if they are a mediocre student, their test results may not reflect that. In contrast, a brilliant but financially struggling student may not be able to perform to the best of his or her abilities due to unpreparedness. Likewise, a student with a disability may not be able to express their capabilities because the format of the exams does not suit their needs. As a result, entrance exams and qualifying exams tend to encourage college and postgraduate enrollment among demographics that already have high enrollment rates (University of California, 2020). In contrast, it pushes marginalized groups further into the margins by making them seem incapable due to poor test scores. Therefore, it can be concluded, that with the plethora of inequalities within the academe, both in basic and higher education, standardized exams cannot present an accurate assessment of students’ capabilities. Rather, it is a tool that only reinforces these systemic issues that push more people further to disadvantage.

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Alyssa. 2019. Disabled in Graduate School: Oral Comprehensives. [online] Inside Higher Ed Available at: < https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/disabled-graduate-school-oral-comprehensives>

Hyman, J. 2017. ACT for All: The Effect of Mandatory College Entrance Exams on Postsecondary Attainment and Choice. Education Finance and Policy, 12(3), p. 281-311.

National Center for Education Statistics. 2021. SAT scores. [online] Institute of Education Sciences. Available at: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=171 [Accessed September 22, 2022]. 

Rossiter, J., Ali, A. and Moscoviz, L. 2020. A case for abolishing high-stakes exams—this year and every year.  [online] Center for Global Development. Available at: < https://www.cgdev.org/blog/case-abolishing-high-stakes-exams-year-and-every-year> [Accessed September 22, 2022]. 

Rucinski, M. and Goodman, J. 2022. Racial diversity and measuring merit: Evidence from Boston’s exam school’s admissions. [online] Education Finance and Policy , 17(3), p. 408-431. Available at: < https://direct.mit.edu/edfp/article-abstract/17/3/408/97145/Racial-Diversity-and-Measuring-Merit-Evidence-from?redirectedFrom=fulltext> [Accessed September 22, 2022].

The Times Editorial Board. 2021. Editorial: UC dumped college entrance exams. Big mistake.  Los Angeles Times  [online]. 1 December. Available at: <https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2021-12-01/editorial-uc-dumped-college-entrance-exams-big-mistake> [Accessed on September 22, 2022]. 

University of California, 2020. Report of the UC Academic Council Standardized Testing Task Force . [online] California: University of California. Available at: <https://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/_files/underreview/sttf-report.pdf> [Accessed on September 22, 2022].

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