More Colleges Go Test-Optional for Admissions

By Catherine Groux
Posted December 12, 2012 10:00 AM

More schools are minimizing test scores' role in the admissions process.
More schools are minimizing test scores' role in the admissions process.
During the college admissions process, one of the ways schools select their newest enrollees is by looking at their SAT and ACT scores. However, this practice may soon change, as more colleges across the country opt to minimize test scores' role in the admissions process, instead relying on students' high school grades, extracurricular activities and letters of recommendation.

Minimizing Test Scores in the Admissions Process

The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), a critic of relying on test scores during the college admissions process, recently reported that 850 colleges and universities have joined their movement, de-emphasizing the role of SAT and ACT scores for admission.

"By dropping SAT and ACT requirements, schools open their doors to more diverse applicants," FairTest's website states. "And they serve as a valuable model for K-12 education by demonstrating that test scores are not needed to make sound decisions."

Last year, Chicago's DePaul University made admissions history when it became the largest private, nonprofit university to go test-optional, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. In February 2011, the school announced that beginning with the freshman class entering in 2012, students could opt not to submit their ACT or SAT scores and instead write short responses to essay questions designed to gauge their leadership skills, commitment to service and ability to meet long-term goals.

With its decision to drop testing requirements, DePaul joined the ranks of schools like Arkansas State University, Berklee College of Music, Central Washington University, Ithaca College and Johnson & Wales University, FairTest states.

The Problem With Weighing Test Scores Too Heavily

Valerie Strauss, an education blogger for The Washington Post, explained that various studies have shown that SAT and ACT scores do not necessarily correlate with students' academic and professional success. Additionally, some research has indicated that SAT scores tend to increase as family income rises, which puts lower-income students at a disadvantage. Because the SAT tends to be "coachable," Strauss said that higher-income individuals can pay for study guides, tutors and a variety of other resources that will help them excel, while the same is not always true for lower-income students.

For these reasons, Bob Schaeffer, FairTest's public education director, said that colleges should evaluate students on other factors besides their ACT and SAT scores.

"[Colleges and universities] recognize that neither the SAT nor ACT measures what students most need to succeed in higher education," Schaeffer said in a statement. "Even the tests' sponsors admit that an applicant's high school record remains a better predictor of college performance than either exam is."

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