The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on college admissions testing requirements at universities across America with the UC schools the latest to move away from the ubiquitous tests. Some schools have chosen to go test-optional for the Class of 2025. Some schools have chosen to go test-optional in perpetuity. Some schools have taken it one step further by forbidding applicants from submitting test scores, which happens to carry a whole lot more weight with us than a school’s PR machine touting their new “test-optional” policy. In all, let’s just say that ACT and College Board are suffering big time from these rapid policy changes. You see, the writing was on the wall that more and more schools would be going test-optional in the years to come but not even Ivy Coach’s famously accurate crystal ball could predict the rapidity with which these schools would drop these exams.
As Spencer Bokat-Lindell writes for The New York Times in a piece entitled “Will the Coronavirus Kill College Admissions Tests?,” “The decision was in some ways a long time coming: For decades, the exams have been accused of being ‘extremely flawed and very unfair,’ as a member of the California system’s governing board put it. But will eliminating the tests actually make the college admissions process fairer for disadvantaged students, or will what replaces them be even worse?”
We’re not sure Mr. Bokat-Lindell answered this question in his piece, but we’re also not sure there is an answer to the question. Yes, the SAT and ACT are imperfect. Duh. Yes, as he writes, “the history of standardized tests is rooted in discrimination.” Duh. Yes, standardized testing advantages the wealthy, students who can afford fancy tutoring. Duh. Yes, standardized tests can still be a more accurate predictor of college success than grades. Duh. Shall we go on?
Yet one thing we know for sure is that as more and more of our nation’s elite colleges shift to test-optional policies — or even to policies that restrict students from submitting test scores — all of these studies that support the use of standardized tests and all of these studies that oppose the use of standardized tests are no longer going to be mere datasets used as the basis for academic debates. Rather, we are going to see just how important standardized testing is — or isn’t — in securing the best students possible at our nation’s most elite institutions.
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