The Value of Testing in Admissions

It likely will not surprise our readers to learn that neither the SAT or ACT is perfect. We can go on and on with their weaknesses — and how they perpetuate economic and racial discrimination. That being said, absent an objective alternative, we believe the SAT or ACT is necessary to the highly selective college admissions process because, without such a test, admissions officers are left to rely exclusively on softer variables. As but one example, a 4.0 GPA at the Virginia-based Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology is not the same as a 4.0 from, say, Mira Costa High School, a good public school in California. Sorry, Mira Costa students, but getting a 4.0 in the most rigorous coursework at TJ is just a whole lot harder.

A young person penned a column in The New York Post declaring the necessity of testing in admissions. We happen to agree.

And while some folks are quite vocal about how colleges need to eliminate testing in the admissions process, there are indeed folks out there who believe that testing — while absolutely flawed — does add value to the decision-making process. In fact, yesterday, Rikki Schlott wrote a piece in The New York Post entitled “Why all kids should take the SAT: Student’s defense of standardized testing” that is deserving of our spotlight. As Schlott writes, “To be sure, the SAT and ACT are not perfect — a poor night’s sleep, a dead calculator, or a pencil-tapper at the next desk could all throw a test-taker off their game — but it represents a quantifiable measure of aptitude to be holistically weighed with more subjective measures, like essays, interviews and letters of recommendation. Studies have consistently demonstrated that standardized testing is a good predictor of success on campus and over a lifetime, even after taking into account test-takers’ socioeconomic backgrounds. And because they’re also strongly correlated with IQ, test scores are the type of indicator admissions officers should be salivating over. Removing this objectivity from the admissions process will spell disaster.”

Well said. Indeed, it’s why the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced back in March that they would reinstate the SAT or ACT testing requirement in its admissions process after a hiatus during the pandemic — beginning this coming admissions cycle. As MIT’s longtime admissions czar, Stu Schmill, said at the time, “After careful consideration, we have decided to reinstate our SAT/ACT requirement for future admissions cycles. Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT. We believe a requirement is more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy.” But several months have since passed and America’s elite universities have not followed MIT’s lead. Why’s that? Because America’s elite universities have historically tended to follow Harvard’s lead — not MIT’s. And Harvard has already declared the school will remain test-optional through at least the admissions cycle for the Class of 2030.

But what do our readers think? Should testing be optional in admissions? Should it be eliminated entirely? Or should testing be a prerequisite for admission? Let us know your thoughts on the subject by posting a comment below. We look forward to hearing from you!

 
 

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2 Comments

  • Joe says:

    Harvard is losing the AA fight in court. They just want to avoid the hard criteria – standard testing, so that they could continue to find ways to continue their “diversity” (or discrimination against asians) without AA cover sheet.

  • Just Talkin' says:

    Test option seems more driven by rankings than any real urge to diversify. It is the height of hypocrisy to say (1) we are test optional but (2) we super-score. So we are not really interested in what a standardized test will show, we are only interested on reporting high scores. It is of course fine for a school to weigh a standardized test how it deems appropriate, but schools wont take that tack because it shows them admitting low scores and driving down the average. But it is hard to believe that a test score is not somehow probative.

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