More than 80% of U.S. colleges and universities no longer require applicants to take standardized tests, such as the SAT or the ACT, for admission. The proportion of institutions with test-optional policies has more than doubled since the spring of 2020. For the fall of 2023, some 85 institutions won’t even consider standardized test scores when reviewing applications, including the entire University of California system. This change comes as research repeatedly shows that a student’s high school GPA is a better predictor of college success than standardized test scores.
Advocates and scholars have long fought against the use of standardized tests for college admission. One critique is that standardized tests aren’t useful at measuring a student’s potential. Additionally, there are deeper issues involving race and equity. The development and use of standardized tests in higher education came out of the eugenics movement, which claimed that people of different races had different innate abilities. This has led to discrimination against marginalized groups in higher education.
Colleges and universities tend to seek applicants with good grades and other achievements, and are often seeking a diverse pool from which to build their classes. Bob Schaeffer, executive director of FairTest, an advocacy group working to “end the misuses and flaws of testing practices” in higher education and in the K-12 sector, states that colleges that did not require standardized tests in applications for students arriving in fall 2021 “generally received more applicants, better academically qualified applicants, and more diverse pools of applicants.”
The test-taking business, including preparatory classes, tutoring, and the costs of taking the tests themselves, is a multibillion-dollar industry. As more institutions reduce their attention to tests, all those businesses feel pressure to reinvent themselves and make their services useful. The College Board, which produces the SAT and other tests, has recently tried to make its flagship test more “student-friendly.”
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