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Test-optional Movement Continues to Grow

Northern Illinois University takes a step further by going test-blind.

Every few weeks, another school announces that it will not require SAT or ACT scores from applicants. Last month, Indiana University, Bloomington announced that it would no longer require SAT or ACT scores from applicants. In addition, both Caltech and Harvey Mudd College announced that they would be eliminating the SAT Subject Test requirement for admission.  

It’s important to understand that going test-optional is not the same as going test-blind. A school like Indiana University, Bloomington, may not require test scores, but admissions officers will still look at any scores a student chooses to send in. Strong scores will simply add to a student’s admissions portfolio. At top test-optional schools, the vast majority of students still send in scores. For example, at Wake Forest, 41% of applicants submitted SAT scores and 45% submitted ACT scores in the 2018-19 application cycle. Wake Forest has been test-optional for over a decade, but most applicants will still send scores in. As Dr. Jed Applerouth wrote last year, “Test-optional admissions has opened up a lane for students who do not test as well, while continuing to value strong testers who submit scores.”

Northern Illinois University’s decision, announced last month, is a far more drastic version of this admissions shift. NIU is going test-blind, which means admissions officers will not consider test scores at all during the admissions process. It’s a big step: NIU is the first Illinois college to go test-blind. NIU Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Ingram, Ph.D, says that the school will focus on school performance, rather than test scores: “Once we know a high school student’s GPA, one standardized test score is irrelevant.” School officials also cited issues of access as a major reason for the change. 


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