Updated Jun 18, 2018

Go deeper: Why colleges are abandoning standardized testing

Students taking an exam. Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP via Getty Images

The University of Chicago, which ranks third on the U.S. News & World Report list of top universities just behind Yale and Harvard, is the first top 10 school to drop the requirement that all undergraduate applicants submit SAT or ACT scores.

The big picture: UChicago is the latest in a series of universities to shift its standardized testing policy from mandatory to optional. Since 2005, nearly 200 schools have dropped their testing requirements.

Testing is not the be-all and the end-all.
— James Nondorf, Dean of Admissions, told the Washington Post

The backdrop: Carl Brigham, a psychology professor at Princeton University, created the SAT in 1926. But James Conant first used the test in 1933, while president of Harvard, as a scholarship option for students. The SAT was first officially adopted as a standardized test requirement by the University of California in 1960.

Driving the change: As schools pursue low acceptance rates, and students complain about testing costs, universities have increasingly chosen to make testing optional — including Ivy League schools.

By the numbers: A study from the National Association for College Admission Counseling showed test optional policies may be beneficial for schools and students:

  • 19% of students in test optional schools were from underrepresented student populations.
  • Schools also saw an increase in federal Pell grant recipients, with 31% of them being non-submitters.
  • Students who didn't submit test scores graduated at similar rates to those who did.

Several SAT and ACT critics also argue that grades are a better indicator of success than standardized testing scores, something that David Coleman, president of the College Board, admitted to the New York Times in 2014. The updated SAT, along with grades and performance, is a better indicator today, the College Board told Axios in a statement.

The bottom line: Standardized testing is increasingly becoming optional for schools, and the trend shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to clarify that the statement from the College Board was made in 2014.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,429,437 — Total deaths: 82,074 — Total recoveries: 300,767Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 398,785 — Total deaths: 12,893 — Total recoveries: 22,083Map.
  3. Federal government latest: Acting Navy secretary resigns over handling of virus-infected ship — Trump removes watchdog overseeing rollout of $2 trillion coronavirus bill — Trump said he "didn't see" memos from his trade adviser Peter Navarro warning that the crisis could kill more than half a million Americans.
  4. States latest: California Gov. Gavin Newsom is confident that more than 200 million masks will be delivered to the state "at a monthly basis starting in the next few weeks."
  5. Business latest: America's food heroes in times of the coronavirus crisis. Even when the economy comes back to life, huge questions for airlines will remain.
  6. World updates: China reopens Wuhan after 10-week coronavirus lockdown.
  7. 2020 latest: Polls for Wisconsin's primary elections closed at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, but results won't be released until April 13. Thousands of residents cast ballots in person.
  8. 1 Olympics thing: About 6,500 athletes who qualified for the Tokyo Games will keep their spots in 2021.
  9. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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A Wisconsin poll worker wearing PPE guides people through a line outside of a polling place. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Polls for Wisconsin's primary elections closed at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, but results won't be released until April 13 due to a back-and-forth on absentee voting amid the coronavirus outbreak.

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