Test Optional List Tops 735

University Testing

Spring is the season when colleges make public their admissions decisions. In recent years, it has also become the time when schools announce changes in their admissions policies. Increasingly, this has meant dropping standardized testing requirements for undergraduate applicants.


This year has seen an acceleration of that trend. So far, five more accredited, bachelor-degree granting institutions have joined FairTest's ACT/SAT "optional" list: Denison University in Ohio; Keuka College in New York; Simon's Rock College of Bard and Stonehill College, both in Massachusetts; and Whitworth College in Washington state.


These latest additions bring the total number of schools that deemphasize the role of standardized exams in admitting all or substantial portions of their first-year calls to 737, about 27% of all four-year undergraduate programs in the U.S. The list now includes 29 of the nation's top 100 "Best Liberal Arts Colleges," as designated by U.S. News and World Report.


At Denison, a nationally selective university enrolling students from all fifty states, the faculty voted strongly in favor of the test-optional policy. President Dale Knobel explained, "Standardized test scores, which are suspected by many in and out of higher education to be affected by socioeconomic and cultural biases, should not stand in the way of strong students who want to put their best foot forward in the college admissions process." Denison Vice President and Director of Admissions Perry Robinson praised the new requirement, "It essentially 'levels the playing field' for strong students who may not have had the opportunity to take standardized tests numerous times, pay the tuition for a private test preparation course, or have access to test preparation tutors at their secondary school."


Stonehill College said that it made the move "because it is mission-consistent" with the school's educational goals. "By becoming test optional, we reaffirm our commitment to carrying the whole-person view through to our admissions process - looking at candidates holistically, not summarizing them based solely on test scores," stated Brian P. Murphy, dean of Admissions and Enrollment. Stonehill also wanted to deliver a message to a broader audience. Murphy continued, "The College believes that the public has placed an increasing overemphasis on improving standardized test scores at the expense of developing long-term academic skills. Also, the cost, expense and stress of standardized testing can discourage applications from economically disadvantaged and first generation students."


Whitworth President Bill Robinson explained, "There is mounting evidence that deemphasizing standardized test scores in admissions can help selective schools like Whitworth to identify the best students for their campuses. Ultimately, we believe this change will make us more selective but with more reliable selection criteria." Dean of Enrollment Fred Pfursich elaborated, "We believe a student's record of accomplishment and involvement over four years in high school is a better indicator of academic achievement and a more reliable predictor of his or her ability to be successful in college than a single standardized test score." Like many other colleges that have dropped standardized exam requirements, Whitworth cited a study by Bates College reporting on the success of its twenty-year experience with test-optional admissions. http://www.bates.edu/x58748.xml


At least two dozen other schools are currently reviewing their admissions testing requirements.


- The optional list is available here.
- The Bates report is available at http://www.bates.edu/x58748.xml