Editorial: All universities should suspend SAT, ACT admission requirements


Dreamstime | TNS

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of Education is waiving annual standardized test requirements.

Springtime is ACT and SAT season for millions of high school students around the globe, though this year, that might not be the case. 

Currently, nine out of 10 students worldwide are out of the classroom, and with this comes the cancellation of school events. College entrance exams — the SAT and the ACT — are not excluded from the list of cancellations. Worldwide, the SAT has already cancelled its May exam, and the ACT is working to reschedule as well. It’s impossible to administer the test fairly while social distancing, and right now, COVID-19’s momentum in the United States is only increasing. 

To take pressure off of students and accommodate their difficulties in taking the test, the University of California — which has 10 campuses in California, totaling over 280,000 students — announced that entrance exams would not be part of its admission process for the 2021-22 school year. Because access to these tests is now limited and they statistically don’t represent intelligence or ability fairly, all universities in the United States should follow UC’s lead and suspend entrance test requirements. 

About 3 million students take the SAT every year, and about 1.6 million take the ACT. While the SAT has not yet announced a reschedule date, the ACT says that it will reschedule for June 13. However, some epidemiologists predict that social distancing could last well beyond the summer, likely meaning that these testing dates will have to be further delayed. College entrance exams are already stressful without the added pressure of not knowing when they’ll be next administered. 

And most of the time, the stress is worthless, because statistics have shown for years that entrance exam performance does not display college readiness accurately. A 2017 Indiana University at Bloomington study suggests that the SAT both over-predicts and under-predicts college performance — neither of which is helpful. There are also numerous factors of privilege that play into college entrance exam scores, including but not limited to ability to afford tutoring, quality of education and other significant life stressors. 

Entrance exams like the SAT also don’t properly measure intelligence, explains Jill Tiefenthaler, provost of Wake Forest University — which stopped requiring entrance exams in 2009. 

“The SAT was originally conceived as an objective measure to even the differences in curriculum and grading across the country. But objectivity has eroded, while the perceived importance of the test has grown,” Tiefenthaler wrote. “While it is true that there is some correlation between test scores and college grades, careful analyses reveal that high school grades are still the best predictors of college success, with test scores adding only marginally to a predictive model that takes into account high school grades.”

Currently, there are more than 1,000 “test optional” colleges in the United States, which means that these universities — including Brown, Boston University and NYU — either don’t consider entrance exam scores or do not require them in the application. 

At the very least, all students applying for the 2021-22 school year should be able to opt out of entrance exams. In a time of immense stress around the globe, the last thing anyone needs to be worrying about is the SAT — especially when it doesn’t seem to measure anything worthwhile anyway.