SAT Scores No Longer Important to Some Colleges

Jul 15, 2011

Many students struggle under the pressure to perform well on college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT. However, more and more American colleges and universities are implementing test-optional policies for admissions, acknowledging that test scores do not necessarily correlate with college success.

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Colleges Turn Away From SATs

The vast majority of high school students take the SAT or ACT when preparing for college. Colleges and universities traditionally expect a certain score on one or both of these exams for admissions, with the minimum score varying depending on the competitiveness of the institution. This can create a lot of pressure, even for the best of students.

Many individuals contend that these exams measure test taking skills rather than academic ability, and are therefore not necessarily good predictors of academic performance. Based on this premise, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest) released a study in 2007 on test-optional admissions at U.S. colleges and universities ( www.fairtest.org).

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Test Scores Not Correlated With Performance

The reasons that institutions cite for moving toward test-optional admissions vary widely. Some have found that test scores simply do not have predictive validity and therefore aren't useful. Others note that these tests tend to favor students who attend affluent high schools with the resources to prepare students for the tests, thus putting low-income students at an even greater disadvantage in the college process.

Many of these institutions have discovered that by relying on classroom performance instead of test scores to measure academic merit, they can attract a more diverse and successful pool of freshmen. In fact, most institutions found that, after making the tests optional, the qualified number of applicants went up significantly in many formerly underrepresented groups, including first-generation, minority and low-income students.

They also experienced a greater rate of success among admitted students after shifting to a focus on high school classroom performance because it has turned out to be a more accurate predictor of college success. This is great news for students who struggle with standardized tests.

Students who would like to focus their college searches on schools that place less emphasis on SAT scores may consider using the Common Application (www.commonapp.org). Participation is currently only open to schools that do not solely base their admissions criteria on test scores and grades.

The application can be used to apply to multiple schools and provides students with the opportunity to focus on the admissions essay and other important parts of their senior year. Among the list of schools that use the Common Application are well-regarded institutions like Stanford University, Columbia University, Harvard College, Duke University, Cornell University and Princeton University.

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