On Sunday, University of California President Richard Atkinson recommended that the University drop the SAT I as a basis for admission and criticized what he deemed an “overemphasis” on the standardized test. Atkinson’s arguments were sound – the SAT is a highly imperfect gauge of intelligence that favors the rich. Nonetheless, the current state of affairs with regard to college applicants bars the process of phasing out standardized testing.

Atkinson delivered his message at the annual meeting of the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C., where he claimed that the SAT has little bearing on what would be expected of students at the university level. He was right. If there is one thing to be learned from higher education, it is that intelligence is not nearly as simple as one’s ability (or lack thereof) to plow through word analogies and basic algebra problems. The human psyche has many dimensions that are simply beyond the scope of what is essentially a consequential IQ test. Equally problematic is the fact that the style in which the SAT I is written favors the wealthy.

Similar to IQ tests, the SAT I is a technique exam that does not stress innate intelligence. Pupils that live in well-off school districts are pushed into seminars that drill SAT I fundamentals into their heads early on. By providing additional instruction in the simple “plug-and-chug” method, such extracurricular schooling offers wealthier children a quick fix, puts minorities and poor neighborhoods at a very distinct disadvantage and scoffs at the legitimacy of the SAT. Despite these facts, however, the Admissions Office must guard some tool, albeit a revised one, which will facilitate the process of reviewing what is often an overwhelming number of applicants.

In November, a record 39,935 students applied to UCSB, and next year’s freshmen will arrive with an average GPA of 3.72 and average SAT I score of 1187 packed in their suitcases. The relatively large disparity between GPA and the mean test score signals an important consideration – mental ability is not easily judged by numbers. Currently, there are many intelligent students enrolled at UCSB who declined to be active participants in high school academics, but strutted their stuff on the SAT. Likewise, there are many intelligent students currently enrolled at UCSB who perform poorly on exams, but excel in the classroom and in private study. It is for this reason that the SAT I does not stand alone when it comes to admissions criteria.

The UC system operates on a calculated eligibility index, which factors in high school GPA, SAT II scores and extracurricular activities as well as the SAT I score. The mathematical apparatus that determines whether or not a student is qualified for admission weights the SAT I score third among other factors because of the test’s inherent shortcomings. High school GPA receives priority consideration because it is the most accurate measure of a student’s willingness and ability to function in an academic environment. SAT II takes second place because, as far as standardized tests go, it is a more reliable judge of an individual’s analytical capacity than the SAT I. So why the SAT I then? Simply put: As UCs stand in the shadow of “Tidal Wave II” and a flood of new applicants, the admissions office needs all the help it can get. Standardized testing is absolutely necessary to the admissions process, but SAT I cannot be dismantled until a revised test is put in its place.

An improved test would incorporate analytical thought by stressing writing and complex problem-solving. An exam that necessitates rationale and logical thought will require a greater demonstration of innate intelligence and assuage some standardized testing flaws. Such tests will inevitably fall victim to an economic bias, but as the wealthy create extracurricular seminars to provide additional instruction, moving away from the “plug-and-chug” method will discount their utility. In the end, until the educational conditions improve in the pubic school system, standardized testing will be an imperfect necessity in an imperfect world.