Test Scores Do Not Equal Merit: Executive Summary

Over 815 colleges and universities across the United States admit a substantial number of students without regard to test scores. Read FairTest's report Test Scores Do Not Equal Merit on-line to learn more about test-score optional admissions, or review the Executive Summary below.

Over 815 four-year colleges and universities across the U.S., acting on the belief that "test scores do not equal merit," do not use the SAT or ACT to make admissions decisions about a substantial number of their incoming freshmen classes. These institutions range widely in size and mission.

  • Schools that have made standardized tests optional for admissions are widely pleased with the results. Many report their applicant pools and enrolled classes have become more diverse without any loss in academic quality. "Test score optional" policies promote both equity and excellence.
  • Colleges and universities that have moved away from using standardized tests to make admissions decisions have done so for a variety of reasons, but all have concerns about the impact of overreliance on the tests. Some public universities have acted to deemphasize the SAT and ACT in the face of restrictions on affirmative action; a few are developing more flexible approaches to admissions in response to changes in the K-12 sector; many have found high school classroom performance to be a markedly superior way of forecasting academic success in college.
  • Lessons learned at the wide range of "test score-optional" schools can be applied to many other institutions. These lessons include:
    - Dropping tests leads to greater diversity because the focus on test scores deters otherwise qualified minority, low-income, first-generation, female and other students from applying
    - Deemphasizing tests attracts more students who are academically capable
    - High school performance -- expressed either as grades or class rank -- is the best available screening device for applicants
  • Institutions that still require ACT or SAT scores should review the experiences of schools that have deemphasized the tests or explicitly made them optional in the admissions process. Colleges and universities should examine their own experiences with tests and ask these questions:
    - Do the tests really have predictive validity at this institution?
    - Does that validity hold for all ethnic, age, and income groups as well as for both men and women?
    - Do the tests add anything significant to what admissions officers already know about applicants?
    - Are test score requirements deterring potential applicants who would make suitable students?
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