Rethinking Standardized Testing: Yale’s Reversal and the Future of College Admissions

Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public PolicyStandardized Test (Source from Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy)

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have been increasingly lenient in their admissions strategies, many no longer requiring standardized tests such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and American College Testing (ACT), initially because many students didn’t have access to these tests. But is this wave of leniency finally coming to an end?

Ivy League Universities & Standardized Testing Policies

At the end of February, Yale University announced that it would once again return to requiring standardized tests for applicants, putting an end to the almost four-year gap of turning a blind eye to SAT and ACT scores.

This announcement makes Yale the second Ivy League school to follow this path, following Dartmouth University. Both universities have cited studies finding that low-income students with high scores often refuse to submit standardized testing results. 

Furthermore, Yale has implemented a new policy allowing “flexible” applications; applicants are alternatively able to submit International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

What Are Standardized Tests?

Standardized tests are exams that colleges and universities use to help determine the academic acuity of students, creating a baseline for admissions. Additionally, standardized tests give admissions officers a better overall picture of the student’s academic performance past select awards. Tests can also qualify certain students for scholarships.

However, some academic institutions continue to push back against the standardized testing system, preferring to not accept any at all. For example, the University of California has seen higher levels of diversity within the past three years where they have not accepted student scores. Others have alternated using performance-based assessments, otherwise known as PBAs. 

Performance-Based Assessments

A performance-based assessment requires students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills by applying their knowledge to create a response or do a task. PBAs work as alternatives for the SAT and ACT, whereas standardized tests are unable to accurately measure a student’s learning and growth capabilities. According to the National Education Association, performance-based assessments are equitable, accurate, and engaging for students who can choose how they show their learning styles.

Concluding Thoughts

Standardized tests are widely used throughout America to help create a baseline for student admissions. 

But the question remains: Will other colleges and universities follow suit and require standardized tests for student admission? 

Perhaps, alternatives such as PBAs will remain open as alternatives for universities seeking to change the fundamentals of college admissions. As the 2023-2024 college application cycle comes to a close, next year may yield data indicating the future of post-secondary education.

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