Why are universities saying no to standardized admission tests?

bigstock-Group-Of-Kids-Joining-Hands-In-307006636.jpg

More and more universities are moving away from standardized tests to promote student diversity.

Photo: Bigstock

Last year, the University of Chicago decided to go "test-optional" to encourage more diverse alumni, from first-generation to lower-income students. A year has gone by and the school declared the experiment a success.

The University of Chicago is not the first or the only institution doing so. Just last year, more than 30 schools followed U Chicago’s example. To date, about 1,000 higher education institutions are ditching standardized tests.

Another institution following this trend is Hampshire College. Kristina Moss, the dean of admissions and financial aid, said: "There's no way to pass a class [here] just by cramming for an exam, we just want to admit more students who are likely to thrive academically." She added that testing doesn't hold enough weight when deciding whether a student is admitted or not. There is more evaluation process, and it doesn't take long to consider a student without a test score.

Evaluating standardized tests

Standardized tests like the SAT or ACT were created to help institutions predict the outcome of a student’s first year, but this method has its critics. 

People against the SAT and ACT argue that the tests could be culturally biased. They say it can discriminate against minority students who don’t have a private tutor or the opportunity to take the test more than once. 

SAT representatives acknowledge that the test doesn't work for everybody and are trying to solve it by adding an "adversity score" for each test taker. This step will measure students' socioeconomic status to give them a better chance to get accepted. 

Annie Reznik, executive director of the Coalition for College, advises institutions to be clear about their goals and how going without a standardized test will help them achieve it. 

In the University of Chicago case, authorities included several changes to its application process so they could attract more first-generation or lower-income students. Now they let students submit a two-minute video instead of an on-campus interview. They also accept non-traditional materials as supplements to student's applications.

By saying no to standardized tests, the institution has more diverse alumni and enables students to take more control over their application process.