The Ivy Coach Daily

July 23, 2022

Great Test Scores Matter Under Test-Optional Policies

An article in The New York Post shines a spotlight on what test-optional really means.

As loyal readers of our college admissions blog may remember, early on in the pandemic, we took heat for asserting that elite colleges — even though they were test-optional in name — would always favor students with strong test scores. In short, all else being equal, students with great SAT or ACT scores would always enjoy an advantage over students with no SAT or ACT test scores. In the ensuing months, the data that was released by some of these elite universities — and the data that was mysteriously not released but rather concealed by other elite universities — unsurprisingly supported our thesis. Of course, all else being equal, students with great test scores would enjoy an advantage. And the sky is blue!

And the data continues to support our thesis a couple of years later as well. As Naomi Schaefer Riley and James Piereson report for The New York Post in a piece entitled “How colleges use SAT-optional applications to covertly impose affirmative action,” “The Wall Street Journal reports that 1.7 million students in the high-school class of 2022 took the SATs, up 200,000 from the previous year. The number taking the ACT went up, too. Yet almost three-quarters of colleges offering four-year-degrees have gone test-optional or test-blind. So fewer schools now require tests but more kids are taking them. What’s going on? The short answer: Test-optional schools have created a two-tier system to get around complaints about their affirmative-action preferences. They don’t want scores that might screen out applicants they’d otherwise like to accept. But they do want test results from wealthier white kids because the tests provide valuable info. They’re perpetuating an unfair system.”

Well argued, indeed! It’s true that elite universities don’t want test results that might screen out underrepresented minority and/or low-income students. The only thing we’d add to this argument is that elite, test-optional universities don’t just want to see great test scores from wealthier white kids, as Riley and Piereson argue. They want to see test scores from students who are over-represented minorities in elite college admissions, too. This includes Indian American applicants, Chinese American applicants, Korean American applicants, etc. And, yes, they’d prefer to see great SAT or ACT test scores from underrepresented minorities rather than no scores too. As we’ve said all along, under test-optional admissions policies, all else being equal, students with great test scores will always have an advantage over students with no test scores.

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