Mar 11, 2024 - News

Standardized testing is back at UT

Illustration of answer bubbles on a standardized test answer sheet filled to form the shape of an upward arrow.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Sharpen those pencils and prepare to fill in those bubbles: the University of Texas is once again requiring applicants to submit standardized test scores.

Why it matters: The move by the state's flagship university is part of a national return to pre-pandemic admissions practices.

What they're saying: Standardized scores, combined with high school GPA, lead to "early identification of students who demonstrated the greatest academic achievement, the most potential, and those who can most benefit from support through our student success programs," university president Jay Hartzell said on Monday.

By the numbers: Last year, UT saw a record number of applicants, approximately 73,000.

  • Applicants who asked to have their standardized scores considered had a median SAT score of 1420, compared to 1160 among those who did not, per the university.
  • Freshmen who had their test scores considered last year had an estimated average GPA that was 0.86 grade points higher during their first fall semester, controlling for a wide range of factors, including high school class rank and GPA.

The big picture: Testing has raised questions around equity, as data analyzed last year showed that students' scores rose alongside parental income, per the New York Times.

  • But Dartmouth found that test scores represent an especially valuable tool to identify high-achieving applicants from low and middle-income backgrounds.

Flashback: UT's adoption of standardized tests in the 1950s as part of a selective admissions policy was part of a plot to suppress the number of Black students the university would be forced to admit, per confidential documents from the period.

Between the lines: UT's move comes as universities are grappling with how to ensure a diverse class in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down affirmative action in college admissions.

  • UT also announced that it's providing greater flexibility for its required essay, "expanding opportunity for a more personalized response."
  • That appears to take into account an opening provided by Chief Justice John Roberts that "nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant's discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise."
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