Test-Blind Admissions: Fair or Foolish


Dhruti Kulkarni, Staff Writer

The University of California system and numerous other colleges have had test-optional admissions since 2020, owing in part to the Coronavirus pandemic, meaning that SAT and ACT scores do not need to be submitted and may not even be considered. In 2022, UCs will go fully test-blind, removing the option to submit scores completely. To some, this is a beneficial decision and one that was highly anticipated: standardized tests can often be unfairly skewed against those who don’t have the money to pay for test prep and therefore favor high-income students who can afford such assistance. While that may seem fair, removing standardized test scores from college applications inadvertently gets rid of an important, quantitative measure of student achievement and academic ability, and that is foolish.

To begin with, the removal of tests on applications will shift the focus to different criteria, most of which are not held to uniform standards. For example, test scores are one of the best ways to determine how well a student would perform in college, and removing test scores means that the most crucial piece of qualitative data would be a student’s GPA. However, a student’s GPA can be based equally on the difficulty of their school or classes as the merit of students themselves, not to mention the impact that more heavily weighted classes may make.

According to Jonathan Wai and Don Zhang, assistant professors at Arkansas and Louisiana Universities, standardized testing is the most accurate college and career success predictor. The results of their research has shown that higher SAT scores correlate to better college GPAs, as well as graduation rates. Dr. Seth Gershenson, a researcher and professor at American University, said that grades, the other valid predictor of college achievement, can be wildly inflated based on the teacher and school of the student. By getting rid of test scores from admissions, colleges would be putting students with harsher teachers (who may have performed well on the SAT or ACT) at an unfair disadvantage. Other factors, like letters of recommendation, are an even less accurate way of predicting future achievement. The unbiased metric of standardized testing is yet another reason why test scores should not be dropped from admissions.

Furthermore, while it may seem like test-optional (or test-blind) admissions may increase racial and economic diversity in colleges, studies show that the change in admissions does not really affect demographics (or the quality of those admitted) at all. According to a 2021 study by Christopher T. Bennet, test-optional admissions have nearly no impact on the demographics of the school, as well as the quality of the students who got in. The point of removing test mandates is so that racially and economically marginalized students are given a fair chance. However, if studies show little to no difference in the actual admissions this difference is a weak attempt at real change. Removing a metric that is proven to be accurate, as shown in the analysis by Wei and Zhang, in determining future success when the change’s real purpose is not being met is not a good idea.

While I do agree that standardized testing can be unfairly skewed when it comes to the income and quality of life of the students, there are better ways to deal with this problem than removing a metric that helps many of the middle-class students cement their academic abilities. Affirmative action (which is legal and employed in 42 states) and prioritizing diversity, as well as students who have overcome hardship, are already some paths being taken to give everyone an equal opportunity, and even if that is not enough to promote inclusivity and fairness, it’s clear that test-blind admissions will do nothing to further that aim. Even with good intentions, the removal of the unbiased, straightforward metric of standardized testing can affect many students in a negative way.


Graphic courtesy of PIXBAY.COM