More and more colleges are moving away from traditional standardized testing options. Over 800 colleges and universities across the country no longer require that students submit SAT or ACT scores in order to be considered for admission, according to a recent survey by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, or simply, FairTest (a long-time critic of the SAT).
And while the majority of these schools are technical, art, and religious institutions, more than three dozen are selective, even top tier liberal arts colleges, such as Wake Forest, Smith, and Bowdoin. Many others, including NYU, Middlebury and Hamilton fall under the category of “Test Flexible,” meaning that applicants have the option to submit alternative college entrance examinations, such as SAT Subject, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate examinations in place of SAT and ACT scores.
Supporters of the trend offer a number of compelling arguments against the examinations, claiming that standardized tests are incomplete measures of a student’s abilities, and a flawed predictor of how well a student will fare once in college, especially when compared to the four years of academic achievement reflected on their transcripts. Others claim that the exams favor wealthier families who can afford tutors and test prep, while minority students tend not to score as high. According to FairTest’s Public Education Director, Bob Schaeffer, “We expect the ACT/SAT optional list to continue growing as more institutions recognize that the tests remain biased, coachable, educationally damaging and irrelevant to sound admissions practices.” In fact, Wake Forest has found that, since becoming test optional, it has further increased the diversity of its applicants.
Some critics, however, see more cynical motivations at play. Admissions are more competitive than ever, and not only for applicants. Colleges and Universities compete fiercely to attract the talented and diverse students, and becoming test optional is a proven way to increase applications. The more applications a college receives, the lower the acceptance rate, the higher the reported “selectivity,” and the higher the U.S. News rankings. In addition, lower-scoring applicants are less likely to report their scores, which could lead to falsely inflated test averages.
How does this impact you? For college applicants, the trend toward test optional should be carefully considered. Whether you choose to report scores will depend upon the selectivity of your colleges and their specific policies, as well as your individual qualifications. Consult a college counselor to determine the best approach for you!