Taking Down the Tests

standardized testing in progressWhat do Smith College, the University of Phoenix, and George Washington University have in common?

As of last month, none of the schools require prospective students to submit SAT or ACT scores when applying for admission.

George Washington University is the latest (and largest) traditional four-year college to drop the standardized testing requirement. With its decision, the private D.C.-based university joins more than 850 U.S. schools that admit students without consideration of ACT or SAT scores. The growing roster of “test-optional” colleges includes more than 30 online-only schools, along with dozens of others that combine on-campus and online instruction.

Originally created as a means to broaden access to college by providing a level playing field, standardized tests are beginning to fall out of favor in some admissions circles. Critics charge that the tests are “culturally biased” and “fail to reflect academic potential,” according to the Washington Post.

The paper reports that George Washington University officials have grown concerned that their efforts to diversify the student body were hitting barriers. Were potential students opting out because of a misguided fear that their test scores weren’t high enough?

More than 24 colleges have dropped the their testing requirements since 2014, according to Fair Test, a group that advocates for test-optional admissions. Graduate schools are also beginning to recognize that test scores aren’t the only way to find strong students. In 2015, the law schools at the University of Iowa and the State University of New York Buffalo eliminated the LSAT exam requirement from their admissions process. And many business schools, more interested in prospective student’s work histories than their test-taking abilities, have dropped the GMAT requirement.

Schools aren’t just acting on instinct. New research suggests that test scores don’t accurately predict a student’s chances for success. A 2014 study of 123,000 students at 33 test-optional schools found no significant difference in grade point averages or graduation rates when comparing those who submitted test scores and those who did not.

William C. Hiss, a former head of admissions at Bates College in Maine, was the study’s lead investigator. Speaking to the Reuters news agency, he said that a student’s high school grade point average–and not their test-taking abilities–is an excellent predictor of college success. “The fact that they are not a great test taker may be the only thing that’s out of whack,” he said of otherwise strong students applying to college.

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