SAT-Optional _ Will Trend Take Off or Sputter?

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — If you’re one of those students afraid standardized test scores don’t paint the full picture of your potential, your options are growing. More and more colleges don’t require the SAT or ACT exams.

Wake Forest and Smith just admitted their first class of applicants who could decline to submit SAT or ACT scores, while Sewanee and Fairfield will do the same next year.

But is the ”test optional” movement gaining steam, or running out of it?

That was a big question hanging over a college admissions conference hosted by Wake Forest this past week. The answer could come in the next few weeks as colleges set their policies for next year’s admissions cycle.

So far, several hundred colleges have gone test-optional for at least some students, including a small but growing number of more selective liberal arts schools.

”I don’t know if you can tell a tipping point until after it’s happened, but it’s very close,” said Bob Schaeffer, the gadfly testing critic who heads the group FairTest. He said he’s heard from at least a dozen very selective institutions reviewing their admissions policies and expects more to drop testing requirements this spring.

But the vast majority of colleges still use standardized tests in admissions. The College Board, which owns the SAT, says only 45 schools are truly test-optional for all.

And the test-optional movement’s ”big fish” is still out there. If an elite college with the name recognition of a Harvard or Yale dropped testing requirements, it could be a game-changer.

Launched in 1926, the SAT was devised as a merit-based leveler to replace the old-boys pipeline from prep schools to top colleges. The idea was to let students show their natural ability even if they didn’t come from the best schools.

But many now view the SAT as the opposite — as an obstacle to opportunity. They point to scoring gaps between different racial and socio-economic groups, and concerns that the test is too coachable.

There’s also a complex, long-running debate over just how well the exam (and its nearly equally popular cousin, the ACT) actually does what it promises: predict college success. Clearly, the SAT helps. But does it provide good enough guidance to justify the stress it causes students? More colleges are answering ”no.”

Some critics think test-optional is just a ploy for colleges to attract more minority students without having to report their on-average lower test scores to the U.S. News & World Report rankings.

But Provost Jill Tiefenthaler said Wake Forest went SAT-optional (along with other changes like interviewing more applicants) to send a signal it really wants a broader range of students. And it worked: Applications this year rose 16 percent — up 70 percent for blacks.

The new policy irked some Wake Forest alumni, who said the school was putting diversity ahead of standards. But Tiefenthaler said more diversity is was essential for building an educational community.

”You’ve got to have different people from different backgrounds with different talents,” she said. ”The kind of students we want here are sometimes going to be great test-takers and sometimes not.”

Wake Forest will re-examine the decision in five years. After a similar experiment in the 1990s, Lafayette College in Pennsylvania went back to requiring SAT scores. The change hadn’t attracted the applicants it hoped for, and it concluded it needed SAT scores after all to predict student success.

The not-for-profit College Board said in an e-mailed statement the SAT has been validated in hundreds of studies and remains important because high school grade inflation makes it hard to compare students. The statement noted the organization has always advised colleges to use SAT scores in combination with other factors, especially grades.

Last fall, the National Association for College Admission Counseling encouraged colleges to consider dropping tests like the SAT in favor of others more closely tied to students’ high school coursework.

But the report didn’t go so far as to tell colleges not to use the SAT.

Test scores ”play a role in our process, and in some parts of our process I would have a hard time seeing what would be the replacement,” said Jeffrey Brenzel, Yale’s dean of admissions. Still, he said Yale constantly reviews how it uses tests.

Some critics doubt SAT scores often help disadvantaged students as intended — by revealing otherwise hidden potential, or persuading Yale to admit a riskier student without fear he or she will fail.

But Brenzel says that happens all the time.

It happens ”when you lack other information about a student that’s reliable, where the teachers tend to write very short and unhelpful recommendations, where the course curriculum is suspect,” Brenzel said.

”The test is one of the few things where you might be able to identify a diamond in the rough,” he said. ”And we take kids like that every year.”


70 responses to “SAT-Optional _ Will Trend Take Off or Sputter?

  1. i think SATs should continue to be manditory. The scores show how concentrated one can be. Also the only reason you won’t take them is because your lazy or don’t test well. This is what the colleges will think. Therefore they wouldn’t want to at their school. If you do take them though it shows your commited and go the extra mile

  2. The ACTs and SATs can pressure some students, and not all people are the test-taking type. This would be great to those people who aren’t test-takers, and to students who easily submit to pressure. This means everyone has a chance to get into a good college. Colleges in general need to be slightly less exclusive.

  3. I think that the SATs are stressful and should be optional. SATs are complicated and very hard to take. SATs get stressful on the kids because these tests go to the colleges the students want to go to. And if the scores are good the better the college will accept you, but the lower the score the worse colleges that will accept you. SATs are very hard to take. The SATs make kids hire tutors and buy books. Students also take the SATs on average about three times just to get that better score. Tutors and books cost money.

  4. I think that the SATs are extremely stressful and should be optional but are very important to colleges and how they pick who will be accepted or not. From taking the PSATs I learned a lot about the SATs and I am better prepared for it in the future. So even if it was optional I would still take them to give myself a better chance of getting into the college I want.

  5. I think that you should have to take the SAT, but more people would be happier if you didn’t have to take it. If you take the SAT’s colleges will be able to know your knowledge of the things that you have learned, and it will make it easier for them to do that because you took the test. If you didn’t take the test it would be harder for college’s to take knowledge on the things that you learned beacause your grades on your report card aren’t just tests/quizes scores they are also participation and homework. But the advantages of not having to take the SAT’s is that there is no stress on the students.

    • I disagree with you. I don’t think that you should take the SATs but I do agree with you that more people will be happier if you didn’t have to take it. It is true that it would be harder for colleges to take knowledge on the things that you learned.

  6. SAT and ACT scores should be mandatory for all schools. In-school grades are just not enough to say how well a teenager may handle a long standardized test such as the SATs. The test may be stressful for students, but how well they handle the stress is probably the most important aspect of taking these tests. When I go into high school, I hope that the SATs are mandatory (even though I really wouldn’t want to take them, they are important).

    • I totally 100% agree with you. The SAT is important and should stay mandatory even if it does put a lot of stress on teens lives. Good Writing!

  7. I think this is a very bad idea. Many colleges look at SAT scores so taking them out would cause a large problem in the college community. If kids do not have SAT scores what WILL the colleges go by? Grades alone. Some teens are bad at class work but are very good at taking tests. That is why the SAT’s should not be optional, so lazy people can not get a “get out jail free card.”

    • I agree that people can be bad at classwork compared to test taking. I just think it should be split more evenly so that the grades count as much as the tests because that way it is fair to both types of people. I also like your analogy at the end.

    • I agree with your statement. What will colleges go by without the SAT/ACT? Most likely grades, and as I stated in my response many grades are over or under inflated depending on where you like etc. That is why I agree with you that the SSAT’s should not be mandatory.

  8. I think the SAT and the ACT tests should be mandatory at all schools. Many kids are saying that just their school grades are enough to decide which college they can get into, but they are wrong because your grades can be “inflated” or “deflated”. With a standardized test most of the test is graded equally . Colleges should still require the tests, those who say it is too coached should get a coach or a tutor, you can retake the test! You can get a books like a Princeton Review one, they give you all the information you need for only $20. The SAT/ACT should not be mandatory.

    • Great thinking Austin. I completely agree with you. The SAT’s should be mandatory. Plus, you are right that the grades from school aren’t enough to decide which college that they get inot. Part of the grades from school are participation and homework, not just their knowledge on things. Nice job.

  9. I personally hate standardized tests. I would agree that it can be a good idea to make the SAT optional in many colleges but, that would also create many problems. The SAT scores are counted in many colleges already. To take them out, you’d have to redo the whole appliance system. The SAT scores are very useful because grades are not always too accurate because they consist of a lot of homework and participation. Also, some teachers are unfair and make it harder than others. Problems with absences because of emergencies also effect your grade. For the SAT, it is the same for each student. This makes the grading more accurate than regular class grades. There are also positives to having the SAT become optional. Not all teachers go in depth with the same things so, standardized testing isn’t always too fair. The student can also do bad on their SATs but, they can still be intelligent. It’d be easier for many people if it was optional. The problem is, easy isn’t always the best thing. Overall, I’d have to say agree that the system should stay the same and that the SAT should not be optional.

  10. I personally think SAT’s should not be optional. SAT’s are a big part of how colleges know how much knowledge you have. Some unfortunate people don’t get proper training and can’t afford tutors and books to study for the SAT’s. People like these should be able to either not take the SAT’s. They could also have the colleges look at all their test scores from the past four years of high school.

  11. I think that the SAT’s and other major tests should not be optional, but be presented in a different way. The stress of this huge four hour test creates un-neededd pressure causing students to make mistakes, because they are so worried about what their score will be. When you know your future depends on this one test, you are bound to mess-up on information you fully understand, because you can’t think clearly. People should be judged on multiple, less heavily-weighed exams, to show their full knowledge of many subjects. Colleges should go through other elements like community service, past grades, and them as a person, along with their general knowledge.

    • I completely agree with you the SAT’s put lots of stress on students and it creates un-neededd pressure causing students to make mistake. Also it’s smart to say that colleges should go through other elements like community service, past grades because some kids just mess up on the SAT’s and don’t have a chance of going to college.

  12. I believe that people should not have to take the test, but disagree they should go to college without a way to test their knowledge. I think students should take the SAT because many people spend hard work getting ready for it, so they want to show their knowledge somewhere. Many people excel during standardize tests, and deserve the chance to use that as their way into college. However people have trouble taking tests like the SAT’s and the Act’s should have another option, equally as challenging just in different form. For example maybe they should verbalize to someone answers similar to the ones on the test. This way they are still experiencing their knowledge just in an easier form. To get into college, university’s should not only rely on the essays the students write, but they should focus on how the students express their knowledge, in a form that is or is similar to the SAT’s.

    • Good thinking! I agree with you, there should be a different form of the SATs for students who struggle with standardized tests, and they should be able to have another option so their chances of getting into a good college are just as good as other students

  13. I personally think that the SAT should be optional, and if it is made mandatory, then collages should not heavily base their decision to admit the student on how well they did on the SAT standardized test. I think this because although the SAT does show whether or not a student grasps certain concepts and information, it can not truly show how intelligent or hardworking the student is. Many students could struggle to focus after spending so much time taking the test or just not have good test taking skills. I think that collages should instead look deeper into the student’s grades and how advanced the classes they took were. I think that their grades truly better reflect how intelligent the student is, but how hardworking the student is.

  14. I think that this is good because I get really nervous when taking big tests. Maybe someone could do really great in regular classes but get a average grade on the SATs and they won’t get into the college of their dreams because of the SAT score. But I could see why you would want the SATs because really school is a competition with everyone else that wants to get in that same school.

  15. I am nuetral on this idea. The idea of not requiring SAT or ACT score may help some colleges. They may need to be a school that needs to diverify their “population.” Not every school wants to be filled with just really smart people. The school also may need to increase its number of aplicants and if they don’t require SAT scores, as long as they are not afraid of having some people who are not as smart, they will probably get more. but some Ivy League schools and others that have a high graduation rate will probably still require SAT because they want to keep their reputation that they earned and that is fine too.

  16. I personally think that students shouldn’t have to take the SATs. I feel this way because many people get stressed about standardized tests, like the SAT or ACT. Many people also don’t do well on standardized tests because they take a long time and after a while will lose focus. I also think that colleges shouldn’t mostly depend on them because like I said before, people get stressed which may cause them to do terribly. I hope that more colleges start to not require the SAT test.

  17. I think this can go either way. I think it is important to take the SAT. This can show your knowledge and still most colleges require a SAT. But also a lot of people get stressed out and get extremely nervous when they take the SAT. You get all A’s in school but get nervous and do bad on you SAT. But you can take more than one SAT which is good. But from my personal experience i know i do a lot better in school but i get very average standardized testing scores. This is why i don’t like standardized testing. So I think the SAT has it’s ups and downs.

    • I partaly agree with you on this. I think that it would be better if all the S.A.T will be taken away because i think that they are bad. Only people trying to get into Ivy league sckools should take them.

  18. I think that the SAT has its up sides and its down sides. I think that it does not show a students true knowledge. I feel this way because someone might be extremely smart but a terrible test taker because they might get very nervous because they could be intimidated by the test. I think that a good thing about the SAT would be that it could keep top notch schools like Harvard at the top. I think that schools should still require the test but they shouldn’t base their entire decision on the test. Colleges should only base some of their decision on the test.

  19. I think that the SAT’s and the ACT”S are a terrible way of measuring how intelligent someone is. If you are a bad tester, like me, then you most likely will get nervous and blank at almost every question. THis isn’t good because the only thing that the test is measured by is your score. They don’t care how good your work ethic is, or if you do community service, just your grades. Even if I don’t think the SAT’s and the ACT’s are bad ways of seeing how smart someone is, how can collages make a standard for the students that enroll in their school? Other than the SAT, ACT,CAT, and DAT, there aren’t any other tests that everyone in the US takes. If a collage is looking at applicants, do you think they would rather look at all of the students grades or just look at their SAT scores and accept them or not. It would be much easier for collages to look at their test scores. This is unfair and I think that SAT’s and ACT’s should be optional.

    • I agree with your idea that it’s a bad way to test your knowledge. I also think that the SAT’s and ACT’s should be optional. You had a good well thought out blog.

    • I completely agree with you. With all the pressure and stress it is easily to blank out on information you would normally know, and when you think of all the collages looking at your scores you make simple mistakes.

  20. I disagree with this article. As much as I dislike standardized tests, you need to take the SAT. It is just one of those things you need to do. Wake Forest’s idea about diversity could turn out positively, but it is not as assuring as the SAT. A students capabilities are determined in the students personality, but that can only go so far.

  21. SAT’s are a hard test, I agree with that. I don’t agree, however that it should be optional. I believe that the SAT’s are an important test and that it should be taken with an open mind. I believe that it should be taken seriously and as a determining factor for college. Even if the collage does not need your SAT score, then think of the SAT’s as a final exam. The very last thing to prepare you for college. Even if it is hard, it should not be forgotten.

    • I agree. even if the SATs are optional people should still take them in order to get into a good college otherwise the choice is mainly based off your classes .

  22. I think that SATs are good and bad. They are good by showing how well you know your curriculum and how prepared you are for college. But, these test scores can be misleading. There are many students that get straight A’s but aren’t great test takers. Some very intelligent people can get very stressed and nervous about the SATs and not do so well. When you are that nervous, you are more vulnerable to make really small mistakes. Testing is still very important. For high school and college you are going to take many important and challenging tests and your grade can be affected badly if you can’t take tests well. Handing in your homework on time and participation in class is a small part of your grade. Although I think that test results can misguide colleges, I probably would more agree with taking SATs because I feel they are pretty significant.

    • I agree with you, SATs only help you prepare for college testing and I would also agree with taking SATs because in the end it pays off

    • I agree with you completly about how they are both good and bad. I agree with your thought on how tests can misguide you. If you get a bad grade, becuase you are having a bad day, it may ruin your chances of getting into a good college, or your first choice. I also agree SAT’s are prety significant.

  23. I think that although this idea has it’s downsides, it is generally a great idea for schools that don’t have a great reputation, but give a great education. This could really benefit such schools because they can attract people who may not come from the best places with the most money or best schools. The people who opt out of taking the SATs or ACTs could get into the school, which is more willing to except the people, given it’s small reputation. Because of this, more people will attend, due to it’s low prices and good educators. Why a mainstream school such as Wake Forest would do this confuses me because a lot people want to attend the school no matter what and the SATs and ACTs will help them find the best candidates for their school.

    • I gree that it is a great idea for schools without a good repution. But yea, why would a school with a good reputation choose to not require SAT or ACT scores?

  24. This was a very fascinating article and could have arguements both ways. I believe that the SAT’s and ACT’s are important tests, but colleges should judge people based on the scores. The SAT’s cause stress for many people and aren’t a good way to title people. I am happy some colleges now don’t require your SAT and ACT scores. They should simply make their decision based on the students high school grades and other after school activities. I think colleges should look at the SAT and ACT scores to just get minor info about the student, not base 50% of their decision on it. Finally, SAT and ACT’s are important tests but shouldn’t be the test students are compared by.

  25. I think that seniors not having to take the SATs is a good thing, but I think the SATs should not be optional. I think that either the test should gotten rid of or kept manditory; but should not be optional. I think this because many students may choose not to take it as an easy way out, and also a student that takes it may be thought higher by a college even if they are not as smart as the student who did not take it.

    • I agree with your thinking that people may take it as any easy way out if the SAT isn’t required. I also agree that seniors not having to take the SATs is a good thing. Great thinking!

  26. I think the test is only half of the difficulty. I think that the anxiety can really harm the performance of a student. If they don’t have to worry about taking the test, they can focus on their class grades.

  27. I think it is very good that our world has come to this. S.A.Ts and A.C.Ts have always been very important in the process of applying to a collage. Now less and less schools are requiring them, which in my opinion is very good because if someone is very good at sports but isn’t that smart they could get into a good college and just keep trying to get into the college team. I think that this is very good for the people that aren’t very smart but are very athletic.

  28. I think this idea goes both ways. Not having the SATs would relieve a lot of students and help kids get into college. When students take the SATs or ACT they could do terrible, but be a very good student and have a lot of potential. This would also help colleges that don’t require the tests because more students will apply, “And it worked: Applications this year rose 16 percent — up 70 percent for blacks.” This idea could be bad because students could be careless and not learn, just cheat and get into college with others’ work. If the SATs or ACT aren’t taken the student wouldn’t be challenged and tested on what they have learned.

    • I agree with the top section of your paragraph 100%. I think that you are right that a smart student may just be too nervous and stressed and not do well on the SATs. I disagree though with the second to last sentence. I think that there is no way a student could cheat on all of their work all through high school, but a student could much more easily cheat on the SATs.

  29. I think having the SAT’s should not be optional. There are no factors that can bring you down such as absences, unfair teachers, social, and family issues. All the stradagies a person needs to know is on that test, if you dont know them them then the collages may not want you. Even though this test is so critical to the future of all the people taking the test, it still does not show who you are as a person. A collage looking at the scores is only seeing what you can do on a test. They don’t see what work you have been doing the rest of the year. A person could be a great student does her work, but may be nervous about taking tests. Should this decide what your collage career looks like?

    • I like how you made a comparison between test taking and actual smarts.

    • I kind of agree with you. I think that the SAT is a poor way of seeing how smart someone is. What if someone is a genius but a horrible tester? They could have a 4.0 gpa but bomb the SAT’s or ACT’s. Also, it causes high school students lots of stress. Even though I think it is a bad way of grading intelligence, I think that you are right when you say that all the stuff that you need to know is on the test and the only thing that matters is your grade, not if you were absent or not or you misbehaved.

  30. I think that the SAT and ACT tests are crucial to decide whether you will go to one college or another. If we were to abolish the idea of these tests, then there probably won’t be enough info. to show how smart the student actually is. That may lead to colleges making inaccurate decisions on your potential, as a student at their college. The SAT and ACT is pretty much everything you learn in high school, and if you do well then it will prove that you have absorbed the knowledge given to you. Just because you got an A in the class, doesn’t mean that you will remember the info. These test seperate the people that forgot the info. and the ones that remembered.

    • You state a well argued point that the test are everything you learned in high school. Also, how in high school you could get an A in a class, but it doesn’t been you will remember that info 1 year from than. Finally, you stated how the test seperates the people who forgot the info from the people that have remembered it for years to come.

  31. I think it is very sad that our world has come to this. S.A.Ts and A.C.Ts have always been very important in the process of applying to a collage. Now less and less schools are requiring them, which in my opinion us an outrage. The only true measure of ones intelligence is a test, without that important piece of information how would any collage or anyone, for that matter, know there true intellect. I can only hope that this trend of not making standardized test scores optional will die out quickly, if we want a good future for American Education

    • I agree with you, and also think that the next generation of adults may be affected by the changes in standardized testing. That will probably lead to a downfall in advancing technology.

    • I totally agree with you. I think that real intelligence can’t truly be shown on just a test.

    • Although a test can show some intelligence, it isn’t the one true measure of it. A person could spend hours upon hours of studying what will be on the test but not definitely retain the knowledge so when the test comes, it is just what they studied and not what they know

      • I agree with you. I think that regardless of how smart you are, you can still get a good grade on the SAT or ACT if you study hard. I think that because of this, you can’t depend on standardized tests to show how smart an individual is.

  32. The SATs and ACT being optional is a very interseting idea. But i want to know what would determine wether a student would get into the collage or not. I think that all students should be required to take a test like the SAT or ACT but a lot more toned down and the results be compared with personal interviews and certain circumstances (ie: where the applicant lives, a backround check ect.).

    • That is a good idea. The SAT’s are not to be missed, if they were a little more minor then maybe if wouldn’t be such a big deal. Toning it down a little may help with the stress and worries

  33. I thought this article was very interesting. For a long time, to get into college, you always had to take the SAT’s or the ACT’s and do well to have a better chance to go to that college. IF you weren’t good at standardized testing, they could really hurt your chances of getting into the school you wanted to go to. IF you were good at standardized testing, they would help you. This new idea gives the people that may deserve to go to the school they want to go, even if they aren’t good at standardized testing.

    • I agree with you, and also think that all your knowledge can not be showed on one or two major exams. A very smart person that gets nervous on standardized tests could mess up. I don’t think that should ruine your chances of getting in to a good school.

  34. I don’t think the SATs are necessary for college placements because your SAT score doesn’t always show what you can actually do. The brightest, straight-A student in every class may not be the best standardized test taker, and score lower that what he or she should. Colleges may mistake that student for not being very smart, and reject them from that college. I don’t think it’s fair to be judged on 1 test that can make a huge impact on your future. Therefore, I think that the SAT-optional test is a great idea so people who aren’t big on testing don’t have to take it, while others can if they want to.

    • I agree with you 100%. A strait-A student might not do there best on the test and not get into a great college. If the college doesn’t know the student personally, they might not know that the student is brilliant. ! test shouldn’t make the impact on your future.

  35. I think that not having to take the SAT is good but it has its disadvantages. It’s good in a way because as we all know SAT is probably one of the most important tests of your life. That being said, I think it creates a lot of stress for kids because it makes them feel like their whol future depends on it kind of does. It’s not fair if a kid isn’t feeling well the day of the test or gets nervous during testing and completely bombs the test. Thats why I think not taking the SATs would be great because it would lift a lot of weight off of kids’ shoulders and they could keep their options open. In a way NOT having to submit your SAT scores to colleges can be bad because there will no longer be “Ivy League” schools and colleges will accept kids who aren’t deserving of a spot in their school. The SATs give colleges a chance to see how kids do under pressure and how they handle stress. I think the SATs should count as a part of being considered for a college but not a large part of the decision.

    • I 100% agree. Test taking is very stressful but still important. Many people don’t do well under pressure, but sometimes you need to learn how to deal with it. I definitely think that colleges are looking to see how well you can do under pressure, so I probably would go with taking SATs and standardized tests.

    • I partly agree with you. The stress put on from the test is very bad, but that is a big part of taking these tests. How well you handle the test is a big part of colleges accepting you. The stress will most likely show in your work. (Plus I kind of want to go to an Ivy League school and we need SATs/ACTs scores or else they wont be Ivy anymore…).

  36. I think not having the SAT would be great for many reasons! It cause stress for a lot of students so they don’t do well. Also, if a student is smart they might do bad on the SAT and might not have the opportunity to go to the first college of their choice. I think if a student is smart, they should show it on their grades and not on 1 or 2 tests. Your whole future could be depended on that test and if you do awful, your future could change depending on what college you go to. I think this is a good topic to talk about with everyone because maybe when it’s time for us to go to college, we might not have to take those tests.

    • I agree with you for many reasons. I think students should be judged on their actual grades over time, rather than 1 or 2 tests. It’s not fair if a smart student doesn’t do well and is rejected from a college based off of 1 test and could turn their future around in the opposite direction.

    • I do not agree with you at all, S.A.Ts are the only true way to measure someones knowledge, grades are not as accurate for many reasons such as unfair teachers, family issues or absences, just to name a few. S.A.Ts will always show someones intelligence, because it is time tested and has no other determining factors other then pure intellect.

    • I agree with you, but I also agree with Alex. I do think it is hard to show your potential and capability on a test, but testing is also very important. I do agree that the SATs are stressful and your future depends on the test scores, so that is why I completely agree with you and I am leaning more towards not having standardized testing.

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