Texas Reduces Graduate Exam Score Emphasis

University Testing

Texas, which responded to attacks on affirmative action in undergraduate programs by adopting the “Top 10%” rule guaranteeing admission to all applicants in the top tenth of their high school classes (see Examiner, Winter 2000-2001, Fall 1999, Summer 1998, Summer 1997), has now taken the initiative to enhance diversity in graduate school admissions.


Effective with the fall 2002 entering class, a new law bars reliance on standardized tests as the sole factor in determining admissions or scholarship awards by any state-funded graduate level program. The use of rigid formulas incorporating test scores is also banned, and applicants’ exam results can be considered only in the context of others from the same socioeconomic group.


In the wake of the Hopwood court decision prohibiting any form of affirmative action, African American and Latino enrollment declined precipitously at University of Texas graduate schools (see chart) as standardized exam results played a more central role in admissions decisions. In 1998, FairTest delivered invited testimony before the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Higher Education calling for a deemphasis on test scores to “enhance equity and excellence” in the state’s graduate and professional schools.


Instead of continuing reliance on test scores, the new law lists eleven factors that may be considered in making admissions or tuition award decisions. In addition to grades and interviews, these include:

• the student’s socioeconomic background;
• whether the applicant would be the first in his or her family to attend graduate school;
• multilingual proficiency and community involvement;
• the need for people in the particular profession within the applicant’s home region; and
• participation in the state’s “Top 10%” program as an undergraduate.

Each graduate program must publish by December 1, 2001 a list of the criteria it will consider when making admissions and scholarship decisions.


The new statute covers such exams as the Law School Admissions Test, Graduate Record Exam, Medical College Admissions Test, and Graduate Management Admissions Test. The proposal was supported by a broad, bi-partisan coalition: final passage in the Texas House of Representatives came on a 138-3 vote.


• The new law is online at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/ — search “By Bill Number” for HB1641.