Bates Study Lauds SAT-Optional

University Testing

For two decades, Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, has carefully monitored its policy of not requiring applicants to submit test scores before admissions decisions are made. This fall, marking the twentieth anniversary of the school’s test-score optional experience, Bates issued a detailed report concluding that there were no meaningful differences in academic performance between test scores submitters and non-submitters.


Among the findings from the study, which examined the academic records of more than 7,000 students:


• The difference in graduation rates between the two groups was .1 percent;
• The average undergraduate GPA of test-score submitters was 3.11; for non-submitters it was 3.06;
• Academic ratings assigned to applicants by Bates admissions staff were equally accurate whether or not test scores were submitted;
• Test-optional admissions sharply increased application rates from students of color and women as well as those from low-income and blue-collar backgrounds. The policy also helped students with learning disabilities and international applicants gain admission.
• Non-submitters were more likely to major in fields that put a premium on creativity and originality.


Presenting the data to a packed room at the National Association for College Admissions Counseling annual conference in Milwaukee, Bates Vice President William Hiss chided his audience, “The difference is five hundredths of a GPA point and one-tenth of one percent in graduation rates. On this we hang the national sluice gate system about who gets into college and where they go?”


Hiss then challenged other admissions offices to follow the Bates example. “It is sometimes said that an optional testing policy will only work at a small college able to read applicants individually and thoughtfully,” he concluded. “With respect, I think this is nonsense. Lots of large research universities read folders just as carefully as small colleges. Another national policy and social ethics question: What are the public costs of not admitting students who would succeed, in order to run a simple, inexpensive admissions process driven by class ranks and testing?”


The Bates research report is available online at
A chapter detailing the history of the Bates test-score optional experience is included in the FairTest report, “Test Scores Do Not Equal Merit.” Use the form on p. 15 to order copies.