Study Questions SAT's Value in Admissions

The SAT’s already highly debated role in college admissions received another blow late last month with the release of a national report that found the test does little to accurately measure an applicant’s academic potential.

Released by the National Association for College Admission Counseling on Sept. 23, the report urges universities nationwide to begin placing less weight upon SAT scores in considering applications to their respective institutions. Entitled “The Use of Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admission,” the report questions the value of the SAT in admissions, alleging that the examination does not cater to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

NACAC Director of Public Policy David A. Hawkins said in a Daily Spectator article that the study was undertaken with the intent of illustrating to national universities just how unnecessary the SAT may be in judging ability.

“The commission certainly suggested that there are more colleges that could probably go test-optional,” Hawkins said. “That is all part of the effort to invite colleges to take a closer look at why they are requiring the use of standardized tests.”

Most universities now require SAT or other standardized test scores in addition to other applicant information, such as GPA and a resume of extracurricular activities. The report emphasizes that the SAT is a poor criterion for determining a student’s ability to perform well in a college setting, finding the test to be more a measure of parental education level or a student’s ability to afford SAT tutoring.

According to the report, the test’s “one size fits all” comprehension of applicants fails to recognize the strengths and capabilities of each individual student. It builds upon the common student complaint that the SAT does not fully represent their intellectual abilities and leaves them shorthanded in their college applications. While standardized tests offer less academically oriented students an opportunity to demonstrate their intellectual abilities, such examinations may also be a disadvantage to those who perform well in classes but are unable to achieve a high SAT score due to an aversion to testing.

In addition to the alleged failure of the test to reflect future academic potential, the report also finds that standardized testing often does not adequately reflect the academic requirements of individual universities. Public and private institutions, the report says, both large and small in scale, each cater to varying types of students and therefore should not accept applicants based on a single universal test.

Dean William Fitzsimmons of Harvard University Admissions and Financial Aid revealed in late September that his university would likely consider an eventual removal of the SAT from its rigorous admissions criteria, basing his prediction in part on the findings contained within the NACAC report.

In responding to the report’s findings, the College Board, the corporation responsible for producing and administering the SAT, released a statement claiming that it would collaborate with universities to ensure that the test continues to provide admissions officers with a fair and objective evaluation of a student’s projected academic performance.