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### The Resurgence of the SAT at Elite Universities

America’s higher education institutions find themselves in the midst of yet another contentious discussion regarding admissions criteria. This time, the focus is on reevaluating the role of standardized testing in the admissions process.

In response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, several prestigious colleges opted to make the submission of SAT and ACT scores optional for prospective students. The challenges posed by the pandemic, such as limited testing facilities and preparation time constraints for students, prompted this shift. Advocates against standardized testing have long argued that these tests perpetuate racial and economic disparities, particularly disadvantaging students from underprivileged backgrounds. The pandemic exacerbated these challenges, leading many institutions to relax their testing requirements to streamline the application process for all applicants.

However, Yale University recently announced a reversal of its policy. Moving forward, applicants are required to include test scores with their submissions. Additionally, for the first time, Yale will accept Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exam scores in place of SAT or ACT scores. This decision aligns with similar moves by Dartmouth College earlier this month and MIT in 2022.

The shift in stance by these select elite institutions is supported by emerging research indicating that test scores can be valuable in making admissions decisions and can particularly benefit marginalized students.

The Impact of Standardized Tests on Fairness in Admissions

Critics of standardized testing have long asserted that these tests create barriers for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is attributed to various factors, such as discrepancies in educational quality, environmental influences, and unequal access to resources.

Recent studies, including research by Opportunity Insights, a group of Harvard economists, reveal that students from lower-income families and less privileged environments tend to have lower standardized test scores and are less likely to take these tests compared to their more affluent counterparts. However, the key finding from these studies, including those influencing the recent policy reversals, is that test-optional practices may inadvertently disadvantage students from economically challenged backgrounds.

The Role of Test Scores in Predicting Academic Success

One crucial aspect that admissions officers consider when evaluating applicants is their potential for academic success at the institution. Research, such as a study conducted by Dartmouth researchers, indicates that test scores can be a more reliable predictor of college performance than grades, essays, or teacher recommendations.

Moreover, these studies highlight that test scores can assist admissions officers in identifying high-achieving students from less advantaged backgrounds. Under test-optional policies, many high-achieving students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds opt not to submit their scores, potentially hindering their chances of demonstrating their academic preparedness.

The Value of Test Scores in University Admissions

Research conducted at IvyPlus institutions, which include Ivy League colleges, Stanford, MIT, Duke, and the University of Chicago, underscores the predictive power of SAT and ACT scores in determining academic success in college. Contrary to the assumption that higher high school grades correlate with superior college performance, these studies reveal that standardized test scores play a significant role in forecasting academic achievements at the collegiate level.

Yale University’s own analysis supports these findings, indicating that test scores, including subject-based exams like AP and IB, are strong predictors of students’ future academic performance, irrespective of their family income or demographic background.

In conclusion, while standardized tests have been criticized for perpetuating inequality in education, they also serve as a tool for institutions to identify academically capable individuals facing challenging circumstances.

Future Implications

Yale and Dartmouth stress that test scores are just one component of their holistic review processes. Notably, the use of test scores in the pre-pandemic years did not impede diversity efforts at Yale, with the university noting an increase in admitted first-generation college students and underrepresented minority students.

While the reinstatement of testing requirements by a few elite institutions has garnered significant attention, the broader trend in higher education is moving towards test-optional and test-blind policies. The majority of U.S. colleges and universities, as reported by FairTest, continue to adopt such policies, reflecting a shift towards a more inclusive and equitable admissions process.