Amid Calls for Test Security Reform, Test-Optional Pathway Appeals to Some Schools
However, most schools still consider scores a vital part of the admissions process.
From the Varsity Blues scandal to the leak of June’s SAT Subject Test in Biology, test security and, by extension, test validity, are getting a lot of attention in the media and in the admissions world. As colleges announce changes to their admissions requirements for the upcoming academic year, it’s not surprising to hear that more schools are choosing to go test-optional.
On July 8th, the University of Denver announced that it would be shifting to a test-optional admissions policy. Denver is joining a list of schools that seems to grow every week. According to Inside Higher Ed, four more schools have recently dropped their standardized test requirement: Marquette University, the University of Southern Maine, Carthage College, and the University of Rochester. Rochester, in particular, presents an interesting scenario: the competitive school went test-flexible in 2011, meaning that students could choose to submit either SAT, ACT, or alternative standardized test scores. After eight years of this, the school decided to do away with the testing requirement altogether.
According to the nonprofit FairTest, over 1,000 American colleges and universities currently feature test-optional or test-flexible policies for some or all applicants. The test-optional movement wasn’t born out of any particular testing scandal: it’s been slowly growing, as schools seek a more diverse student body and a larger pool of applicants. One of the biggest triumphs for the test-optional movement came last year, when the University of Chicago announced it would be moving to a test-optional admissions policy. In the first year of this policy, 15% of Chicago’s admitted students did not submit SAT or ACT scores.
Despite the furor, though, it doesn’t look like the SAT and ACT are going anywhere anytime soon. According to the National Association of College Admissions Counselors’ 2018 State of College Admissions publication, test scores remain an important part of a student’s application portfolio. In a survey of 2,251 college admissions counselors, test scores were the third most important factor for admission, just behind grades in all courses and grades in college prep courses.
Standardized test scores serve as a hedge against grade inflation and help college admissions officers compare students from different schools, districts, and states.
What’s more, test-optional schools will still consider scores! Test-optional schools are not test-blind schools. Test-blind schools will not look at any scores that a student may choose to send. Test-optional schools will consider scores as a part of a student’s holistic admissions portfolio, but will not reject an applicant simply because he or she has not included scores. As Jed Applerouth noted in January of this year, the majority of students who apply to competitive test-optional schools still submit test scores. Strong test scores will strengthen a student’s application, no matter what school they’re applying to.
As with every part of the college admissions process, different approaches will be suitable for different students. It’s important to understand the admissions policies of the specific school your student is applying to before making any plans regarding testing or prep – there’s no one-size-fits all answer to college admissions.