George Washington University, a private university with just over 10,000 undergraduate students, has recently announced that they will become a test (SAT/ACT) optional college for admissions. Other colleges have been test-optional for decades, but not many with the high profile or number of students like George Washington. Other test-optional colleges have relied their ability to spend time using other criteria to decide on student admission, often with more of an eye toward student creativity.
GWU’s decision, according to the school, is based on research that shows a stronger connection between overall student academic performance in high school and their performance in college than test scores and performance in college. GWU also argues that tests can act to prevent more diverse students from winding up at their school. And, for the record, GWU will still demand test scores from athletes, pre-med students, and home-schooled students.
As you might expect, the leadership of College Board, which maintains the SAT, and of the ACT strongly disagree. Following is an excerpt from an NPR article about this topic:
In response to the news, the nonprofit College Board defended the importance of its SAT: “Overwhelming evidence shows that SAT scores and high school GPA in combination are the best predictors of college success. Evidence also shows that test-optional policies do not increase socio-economic and racial diversity on college campuses — which is what these policies claim to achieve.”
The ACT, now more widely used than the SAT, has also argued that an A student at one high school is not necessarily comparable to an A student at another, more academically demanding school. In other words, tests like the SAT and ACT can help institutions guard against grade inflation.
Paul Weeks, a senior vice president with ACT, says GWU’s decision sounds like a marketing ploy.
“I can’t understand why a school would consider admitting a student without a test score but not admit a student with a (low) test score,” Weeks says.
So, is this likely to start a trend of larger schools disassociating from the SAT and ACT? Probably not at this point. It will be interesting to monitor what happens with the new SAT, which resembles the ACT to a much larger degree than it had before. Even if the SAT continues to lose ground as compared to the ACT, it is unlikely at this point that colleges will start moving away from the tests in droves.
For more information, please visit: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/07/28/427110042/is-this-the-beginning-of-the-end-for-the-sat-and-act