Test optional: The push to remove SAT/ACT scores from college applications

Education

(WTRF) – Calculators with fresh batteries, #2 pencils in hand and waking up early to head to a testing site. That was usually the reality for college students as they prepped for the SAT and ACT, but many colleges are now going “test optional” for admission. 

COVID-19 caused many higher education institutions across the country, and in West Virginia, to go test optional. Some are choosing to stay that way for the time being. 

West Virginia’s Chancellor of Higher Education told 7News there are studies that show standardized tests are a barrier for certain groups of students, but there are other reasons you may still be required to take the exam.

Getting away from a number means that you have to take a closer look at the individual. 

Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia Chancellor of Higher Education

The goal of admissions is to look at college readiness like high school GPA and extracurriculars, but there’s the argument that the ACT or SAT is a way to evaluate all students on the same level. Or, is it?

If we don’t have a standardized test, something that’s equal for everybody, then they’re going to worry about grade inflation. You know, the rigors of classes ‘oh no my school’s harder than your school’ and how do you judge that?

Brenda King, Executive Director of Admissions and Recruitment, West Liberty University

Their GPA was a little lower, but their test scores were higher. Or, even vice versa. Maybe they had a pretty strong GPA and they just weren’t really strong in standardized tests

Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia Chancellor of Higher Education

The evaluation process goes back and forth, and there are some students that benefit from standardized testing, but others don’t. 

They’re not engaged. They don’t get great grades, but they’re a really smart student and the only way you know that is if they take a standardized test and they excel on the standardized test and you know their grades may not always reflect their abilities, so the standardized test is another way to reflect that.

Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia Chancellor of Higher Education

As of now, West Liberty University remains test optional for admissions for those students applying for the Fall of 2021 or 2022.

My belief is that we’re gonna take a look at this class that we’re working on bring in now because they’re the ones that have been impacted the greatest. They’re starting to take tests and see what the data is.

Brenda King, Executive Director of Admissions and Recruitment, West Liberty University

Schools like Bethany College made standardized test optional admissions adopted during the pandemic a permanent decision.

Bethany has led the way in helping students who either did not have access to the ACT/SAT during the pandemic or may have been disadvantaged by the testing process.

Karen Hunt, Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing, Bethany College

The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission said the issue is something they’ll look at in the future and possibly take to a vote. 

It’s really important that we give the folks in West Virginia the opportunity to go to college if they want it. So, if we start to see that we’re getting different groups of students who otherwise weren’t coming to college before applying then we have to pay attention to that.

Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia Chancellor of Higher Education

While standardized test scores may be optional for admission, that’s not the case for merit-based academic scholarships from universities. Students must provide and ACT or SAT score. This also includes the Promise Scholarships.

Education officials said this policy will not change.

Each school across the state is a little different with their application process, so be sure to check if the schools you are looking at require the SAT or ACT. If they do, education officials advise testing dates are starting again, and some colleges even offer residual testing on campus. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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