The Comeback of SAT/ACT Requirements: Understanding the Trend

By Huntington Learning Center

In recent years, the discussion surrounding the relevance of SAT/ACT scores in college admissions has intensified. Many prestigious institutions, including Georgetown, MIT, Florida State College system, Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, Purdue, and Dartmouth have made headlines by reinstating these standardized test requirements. The decision comes on the heels of compelling research indicating that these scores provide valuable insights into a student's potential for success in higher education.

A recent study by economists and sociologists at Dartmouth found that standardized test scores, such as those from the SAT and ACT, are better predictors of college performance than high school grades alone. Contrary to popular belief, the research reveals that even students who excelled with a perfect 4.0 GPA in high school had only a marginal advantage over those with a 3.2 GPA as it pertained to college performance. This revelation challenges the notion that high school grades are the sole measure of academic aptitude.

Moreover, a separate study titled "Standardized Test Scores and Academic Performance at Ivy-Plus Colleges" by John Friedman, Bruce Sacerdote, and Michele Tine delves deeper into the relevance of standardized test scores in college admissions. This study focuses on Ivy-Plus colleges and examines the relationship between standardized test scores, high school GPA, and academic success in the first year of college. Despite the trend of colleges dropping standardized testing requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this study finds that SAT and ACT scores remain strong predictors of first-year college GPA, even among students with similar high school grades. Higher test scores are associated with higher college GPAs, indicating the continued importance of standardized testing in the admissions process. Additionally, the study reveals that students from different socioeconomic backgrounds with comparable test scores perform similarly in college, suggesting that standardized tests may not inherently disadvantage students from less advantaged backgrounds. These findings underscore the value of standardized test scores in assessing academic readiness and potential for success in higher education.

Yale University has also decided to reinstate the requirement for prospective students to submit standardized test scores, reversing its policy of optional testing over the past four years. This decision follows a thorough review of internal data and the external studies.

The correlation between higher SAT/ACT scores and post-college success is also striking. While a stellar high school GPA is undoubtedly impressive, it pales compared to the predictive power of standardized test scores. Students with higher SAT/ACT scores are more likely to thrive academically in college and achieve success beyond graduation. This correlation highlights the significance of standardized testing in assessing a student's readiness for higher education.

Additionally, students may withhold their SAT/ACT scores, believing that their academic prowess and extracurricular achievements speak volumes on their own. However, this approach may inadvertently harm their chances of acceptance. Admissions counselors view standardized test scores as a crucial component of the application package, providing valuable insight into students' academic potential and readiness for college-level coursework.

As the landscape of higher education continues to evolve, one thing remains clear: the debate surrounding standardized testing is far from over. Students, educators, and policymakers alike must engage in constructive dialogue to ensure that college admissions processes are fair, transparent, and equitable for all. Moreover, students should recognize the importance of taking the SAT and ACT exams, as they are valuable tools in assessing academic readiness and potential for success in college.