Data Show Test-Optional Admissions Successes

University Testing

FairTest Examiner, May 2012

Reports from admissions offices around the nation continue to show very positive results from eliminating ACT/SAT score submission requirements. At Pitzer, a highly selective college in California, 63% of this year’s applicants did not submit standardized test results. Wake Forest University in North Carolina reports that the number of students of color in its entering classes jumped from 16% to 22% in its first three years as test optional.  And DePaul University in Chicago is meticulously documenting the results of its new policy that went into effect last fall.

Pitzer accepted less than 16% of applicants from the high school class of 2012. Among admitted students, an unusually high 73% did not submit test scores. More than one-third of admittees are students of color. Since 2004, Pitzer has waived ACT/SAT requirements for anyone graduating in the top 10% of their high school class or posting a grade point average of 3.5 or higher.    

Most test-optional schools report that between one-third and one-half of applicants withhold scores. Typical of the test-optional admissions experience is Hobart and William Smith, a top-tier liberal arts college in upstate New York, which has not required standardized exam scores since 2006. There, 38% of applicants and 43% of enrolled students in last year’s entering class submitted ACT or SAT results.

At Wake Forest, ACT/SAT non-submitters have ranged from 32% to 36% of the applicant pool. The portion of enrollees who graduated in the top tenth of their high school classes increased from 65% in 2008 before the new policy went into effect to 83% in 2011. In the same period, the number of low-income students eligible for Pell Grants doubled. Like other schools, Wake Forest has documented that standardized test non-submitters perform academically on par with students whose applications included test scores.

Some of the most compelling data on the impact of eliminating admissions test score requirements is being assembled by DePaul University, which recently began a four-year, test-optional experiment (see Examiner, May 2011). In addition to hosting a web site with a rich set of resources about the policy, the school is carefully monitoring admissions data and students’ academic performance. In addition, DePaul Associate Vice President Jon Boeckenstedt regularly uses his blog to present data on the test-optional experience. His posts include charts, videos and interactive presentations (

Evidence of the success of test-optional policies compiled by schools such as Bates (see Examiner, October 2004) and Mount Holyoke has been a major factor in the continuing growth of the movement. This new data is certain to encourage more schools to review their admissions testing policies.