More Colleges are Eliminating SAT & ACT Testing for Admissions Requirements

Ahhh standardized testing. As if applying to colleges wasn’t stressful enough on its own, you have to register for these 4-hour exams where you’re constantly being timed, allowed only 5-minute breaks, and not to mention being told constantly these will basically decide your future.

With the SAT and ACT being such commonplace requirements, I didn’t think much of it when I knew I’d have to sign up to take it my junior and senior year. I knew you needed a good GPA, too… but I definitely stressed out when it came to these scores (which didn’t come out for AGES after we took the exam). So I was intrigued when I found out more colleges are beginning to forgo the SAT/ACT test requirement for admissions.

So I’m sitting here thinking, great, these little kids aren’t going to need to sit through those agonizing exams like I did? Well, the vast majority of colleges and universities still require the SAT and ACT, but there has been a sweeping trend to eliminate them in favor of non-traditional options.

Is this good or bad? Well, these tests were originally designed to “level the playing field”, that is; regardless of how good your school system was, you could take this test and colleges would get a true feel for your level of intellect and problem-solving skills. Essentially, if you had a disadvantaged upbringing, taking this exam could still show colleges how valuable you were as a student.

However, when it comes to the present day, the SAT/ACT exams actually show a bias for upper-class social classes and private school systems. Think about it–SAT testing as well as prep classes are expensive, and students who can afford to attend private schools will benefit in that area alone, but the bias is not just economic. Racial biases have also been disputed, including vocabulary terms that are more dominant in white society, as opposed to minority cultures. There also remains a gender gap, where men outperform women, which researchers speculate may be due to males being more comfortable with the “rushed” testing atmosphere, while females typically are more thorough test-takers and less likely to guess the answer and move on.

With all these known elements to the test, I think it’s clear that those exam scores are not necessarily representative of the best college candidates! I’m surprised that admissions boards still rely so heavily on these scores, but then I remember how difficult it is to narrow down the applicant field. Eventually, you do need to have a way to create a “cutoff”, and with so many different schools calculating GPA differently, there needs to be a way to measure natural intellect vs. good schooling, as well as GPA inflation.

Finally, there is the whole question of the applicants colleges really do want to take. Can a student do poorly on the SAT, but really apply themselves when it comes to studies? Absolutely. Meanwhile, some students are able to knock standardized tests out of the park, but have zero work ethic in academics. Luckily, there are many facets to college admissions to offset the weak areas of each criteria point.

I’m interested to learn what some of the new admissions criteria will involve if standardized tests really are beginning to be fazed out. Will admissions essays be more standard? Or is there a better way to review applications that colleges and universities haven’t implemented yet? I’ll be looking forward to the change.

[Lead image via Aspen Photo/Shutterstock]

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  1. Ceener says:

    I read somewhere that the reason girls score 'lower' on the SAT is not because women are not suited to a "rushed testing atmosphere" but because underprivileged girls are more likely to take the test (and lower the overall average score of female test takers) than underprivileged boys are. Or at least, I think that's a more plausible reason. I think some of the other biases can be explained by hidden variables that don't necessarily point to bias for upper-class whites. For example, Asians have been consistently scoring higher than all other groups.
    And, I mean, an inner city African-American kid can probably understand a rich white kid, but it probably doesn't always work the other way around (as in, it might have helped Obama that he done got edumacated in some grammar). I honestly don't think taking the SATs out of the picture will help. Because math, critical reading, and grammar in themselves are not biased. If a student gets a low score on these things, it's not the test that's biased -unless they actually TRY to make questions that a certain group would score badly on- but more likely the student's own variance from the standard reasoning skills a person should have. If there is a deficiency somewhere, it's going to show up SOMEWHERE.
    Rich people will always have the advantage.. I think we've all noticed that by now. Even if there were no such thing as the SAT to hire private tutors for, they've still got the dough to bribe for awards, hire tutors for advanced classes, and get private musics lessons and blah blah if they so choose to.
    I'm a HS senior, and most of the schools I've been looking at seem to have different standards for African-Americans, Native Americans, white Americans, Asians, and so on as well as for international students and underprivileged students.
    I really think, if you stick your neck out and see that you can get into a good school even though your parents earn x amount of money or you're y-American, you will find many great opportunities that can be taken advantage of. The hard part is breaking free from the customs (shall I say?) of a community that doesn't put education as a priority.

    I initially only wanted to talk about education for girls, but it looks like I blabbed on. One last thing I want to say is that there is actually an ongoing debate about whether girls could actually be OVERprivileged.

    Nevertheless, a very interesting topic. Thanks Katie!

  2. I'm not really sure how in the world I managed to get into college without taking these. from high school I went right into community college, and from there I transferred into UNLV. Either the schools were just so crappy that they took anyone, or GPA carried more weight than SAT/ACT scores. Still, I'm glad to see these horrible things being abolished. I never thought about the fact that they were costly, and that only upper class students could properly study and prepare for them. I've never really been keen on having a test determine everything anyway, since a good majority of people don't perform well in a strict testing environment. There needs to be more tested methods put in place that take in the whole of a student's education without giving bias to those of certain classes, or those who handle testing environments well.

  3. gothamtutoring says:

    the article you read is a little misleading and worth clearing up. It is true that many schools "de-emphasize" scores – that doesn't mean they don't require them, it just means they don't have the same heavy weighting in the decision-making that most schools put on them. None of the colleges they mention are described accurately – NYU continues to list sat/act scores as being in their 'most important factors' category as has always been the case with them. DePaul also lists them as a top factor. Smith and Byrn Mawr dont list them as a top factor but still require them and have an average of about 1950 for their incoming freshmen which speaks clearly to the fact that they are being considered.

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  5. Nick says:

    However, when it comes to the present day, the SAT/ACT exams actually show a bias for upper-class social classes and private school systems.


    Really stupid blog. Yes… math, english and history are biased for upper class social classes and private schools. ROFL.

    Stupid monkey… you lack critical thinking skills. Lets all just dumb our children down to YOUR level so we dont hurt your feelings.

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