Many colleges’ applications no longer require SAT or ACT scores in a change that may last beyond the pandemic.
For most college-bound high school students, taking the SAT or ACT is an essential part of the application process. A higher score on these tests gives you a greater chance of acceptance and receiving scholarships.
These standardized tests are essentially used as a way to predict a potential student’s performance at college. High school GPA is the best single predictor of college performance, though high school GPA linked with a standardized test score may be an even better predictor.
Beginning last academic year, however, many colleges made tests an optional part of applying. This year, about two-thirds of U.S. universities, including all eight Ivy League schools, are making standardized tests optional, at least for the current application season. The trend had begun decades ago, with colleges ditching the test requirements in order to attract more diverse applicants.
The COVID-19 pandemic prevented normal proctoring of standardized tests, with many students unable to get a score to submit to a college. The tests are typically of central importance in the college admissions process for decades prior, with almost most applicants having to submit scores for one.
TU is among the universities going test-optional, not requiring scores for admission to the fall 2021, spring 2022 and fall 2022 semesters.
Both Oklahoma University and Oklahoma State University have gone test-optional, though test scores are still necessary for students to obtain academic scholarships. Oklahoma University has promised to stay test-optional at least until the fall 2025 semester, though the college still encourages score submission.
The move away from standardized testing has been accompanied by schools expressing their desire to have a more “holistic” application process. Test scores are seen as a small portion of a student’s story, and not absolutely representative of their scholarly potential.
Oklahoma recently announced all students in the 10th, 11th and 12th grade would be given an extra free taking of the SAT after the cancellation of the test last year due to COVID-19. The test was postponed in the spring from the pandemic and wasn’t made up in the fall due to a lack of funding. The money for this round of free testing comes from federal relief.
Beyond the pandemic, many have also drawn criticisms of standardized testing as a class and racial barrier. Critics point to the fact that wealthier students can afford one-on-one tutoring sessions and pay to take the test many times. Higher incomes are associated with higher standardized test scores, and the disparity is even greater when comparing poor and wealthy Black families. High school GPA, which has been recommended as a replacement for test scores in admission decisions, has a less significant link to family income.
On the other hand, others claim standardized tests offer a meritocratic method for underprivileged students to catch up with their wealthier peers. A smart student, so the thinking goes, can prove their talent through the fair and equal test. College Board, the company who creates and administers the SAT, has claimed that the test can “increase diversity.” Indeed, some studies have shown that the benefits brought by the aforementioned one-on-one tutoring sessions are entirely negligible.
Schools that have abandoned standardized test requirements have seen a larger and more diverse group of applicants. However, a study has also shown that the final admission decisions are no more diverse when making tests optional. The decision is still in the hands of colleges, including graduate schools, some of which are dropping their GRE requirements.