An increasing number of colleges and universities across the United States are waiving the American College Testing (ACT) and Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) as part of their fall 2021 admissions process. The novel coronavirus is one of the main reasons for the move.
As of October 6, 64 campuses have “Test-Blind” or “Test Free” policies for fall 2021. These institutes will not consider ACT/SAT scores, even if submitted. The list includes the Northern Michigan University, California State University system, and Cornell University.
Admissions authorities are citing two reasons to drop the tests. The first is the pandemic. Given that testing was canceled during March, April, and May, students did not have enough time to take exams for fall admissions. The College Board, which conducts the SAT, said that 154,000 (42 percent) October-registered students also couldn’t take the test.
The second and perhaps more important reason is that the tests are an outdated rite of passage. They are no longer considered an accurate reflection of the student’s merit.
Grievances Over Standardized Tests
Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, higher education experts were increasingly worried that admission tests exacerbate racial and ethnic disparities in higher education.
The coronavirus crisis set the ball rolling for a conversation on standardized tests as a mandatory gateway to higher education.
If your October SAT test center closed or reduced capacity, please remember that because of #covid19, most colleges and universities will be flexible during the upcoming admissions season. https://t.co/mUP45BKAgV pic.twitter.com/MUsDt2VZD8
— The College Board (@CollegeBoard) October 2, 2020
A recent report of The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) recognized the importance of admission tests in the enrollment process for post-secondary education while calling for “changes to the admission process.”
Even before the pandemic hit, over 1,000 schools made the SAT and the ACT optional, a list that grew over the year. These colleges consider the test scores only if the applicant chooses to submit it.
In the wake of COVID-19, colleges are now dropping the requirement for admissions tests altogether. Test-blind colleges will completely ignore exam scores and emphasize on the student’s GPA, admissions essay, and other factors.
Will Tests Return After the Pandemic?
The majority of US schools that are doing away with standardized tests and adopting test-optional policies are doing so temporarily to accommodate students during the pandemic.
Former ACT CEO Marten Roorda wrote a letter to the University of California earlier this year saying that, “Removing the testing component may create a new set of problems for the Board to review in the upcoming years.” He added that eliminating the ACT “is a short-term Band-Aid that shortchanges students in the long run.”
Although over 700 colleges are test-optional and almost 65 colleges are test-blind, admissions tests haven’t been abandoned completely. After canceling test dates earlier this year, The College Board requested college admissions offices to extend application deadlines for students who couldn’t take the exam. The College Board and ACT have started reopening testing centers and are now offering dates in October.