Colleges Are Dropping Entrance Exam Requirements

Published December 29, 2015

An increasing number of colleges and universities across the nation are dropping the requirement for entrance exams.

Bob Schaeffer, public education director at the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, also called FairTest, says abandoning entrance exams leads to a higher-achieving and more diverse pool of applicants. He says entrance exam scores do not accurately predict future student achievement.

“More than 30 colleges and universities dropped ACT and SAT admissions testing requirements this year, a [record annual] pace,” Schaeffer said. “An ever-increasing number of schools recognize that these exams fail to deliver on their advertised promise: predicting undergraduate success accurately and fairly with a tool that cannot be manipulated by high-priced coaching.”

Schaeffer says removing the entrance exam requirement can help students from low-income families who perform well academically to break out of the cycle of poverty.

“A large body of independent research, such as the landmark book Crossing the Finish Line, demonstrates that applicants’ high school grades, particularly in college-prep courses, provide better forecasts of their likelihood of college graduation than either the ACT or SAT,” said Schaeffer. “Moreover, relying on grades and other measures of real academic performance is much less likely to create additional barriers to access for groups that have historically been excluded from higher education.

“Test-optional policies are a win-win for both admission offices and the students they want to attract,” Schaeffer said. “Colleges that drop testing requirements get larger, better talented, more diverse applicant pools, and teenagers know that such institutions will treat them as more than a score. That is why schools that become test-optional rarely turn back.” 

Heather Kays ([email protected]) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute and managing editor of School Reform News.

Image by Butz.2013.