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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Test-optional is not an equalizer

Test-optional college admissions tilts the playing field just a little bit more, writes Kelly Ochs Rosinger, a Penn education professor, on The Conversation.

More than 1,000 colleges no longer require applicants to submit an SAT or ACT score.

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“Instead of expanding economic and racial diversity at American colleges, test-optional policies have actually served to make selective colleges even more selective,” she writes, citing an analysis of 180 liberal arts colleges, including 32 with test-optional policies.

Test-optional policies let college rise in college rankings, she explains. They get more applications, so they reject more and raise their selectivity score. In addition, reported SAT scores rose by 25 points because only the higher-scoring students revealed their scores.

At highly selective colleges, more students on average come from the top 1 percent in terms of family income than from the bottom 60 percent, recent research shows.

With dramatic differences in grades and course offerings between high schools, standardized tests provide one way for selective colleges to identify talented students who might have gone unnoticed in the admissions process.

“Low-income and underrepresented minority students tend to score lower on average than their peers,” writes Rosinger. They also have trouble competing with advantaged students when it comes to “grades, course selection, recommendations, essays and extracurricular activities.”

Test-optional policies work, argues Joseph Soares, a Wake Forest professor and editor of SAT Wars: The Case for Test-Optional Admissions.

At Wake Forest, we’ve never had academically stronger students with as much racial, ethnic and economic diversity from across America than since 2009, when we went test-optional. . . . the average high school GPA of our incoming freshmen increased after we stopped using standardized test scores as a factor.

He concludes, “High school grades because they have always been the best predictor of college academic performance.”

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