Colleges and Universities Question Usefulness of Standardized Testing in Admissions

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

An increasing number of competitive colleges and universities across the US are eliminating the requirement to submit SAT and ACT scores as part of their admissions process. By encouraging admissions officers to look beyond test scores when evaluating students, eliminating requirements for standardized tests helps to expand access to college for a more diverse range of students.

Low-income students and first-generation students often lack equal access to test preparation resources that benefit students of higher socio-economic status. Schools’ decisions to go test-optional may therefore benefit lower-income, first-generation, veteran and rural students.

As Wayne D’Orio reported for Education Dive, a recent University of Chicago report confirms this. After the nation’s most competitive university made standardized tests like the SAT and ACT optional in its admissions process, “the number of first-generation and low-income students jumped by 20% year-over-year for its current incoming class, while rural student enrollment grew 56%,” D’Orio wrote.

In the past year, “more than 30 schools” have followed suit, raising “the number of test-optional four-year institutions across the country to more than 1,000,” D’Orio reported.

In an attempt to make its SAT test fairer, the College Board has begun offering free preparation courses as well as providing colleges with an “adversity score,” a separate measure of a student’s socio-economic status and family background.

“Even the testing agencies acknowledge aspects of testing that don’t work well for every part of the population,” the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Bowdoin College, E. Whitney Soule, told Education Dive. “We’re not anti-test, we’re just not relying on the test to do the work we’re doing.”

Establishment media have provided limited information regarding test-optional admissions policies and expanded access to SAT preparation courses. However, in late 2019, students and nonprofit organizations filed a lawsuit against the University of California to end the requirement of SAT and ACT scores in the UC application process. As The Daily Californian, a student-run newspaper serving UC-Berkeley, reported, “The lawsuit alleges that standardized tests illegally discriminate against students based on wealth and race and violate the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution.” The lawsuit has prompted wider corporate news coverage of the role that standardized exams in college admissions, including reports by the New York Times,  NBC News, the Los Angeles Times, and US News & World Report.

Source: Wayne D’Orio, “Is Time up on Standardized Tests for College Admissions?” Education Dive, August 13, 2019,

Student Researchers: Haley Fice, Sabrina Kaliouby, Toni Mulligan, and  Joshua Wielgosz (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)