Study: ACT, SAT Test Scores Irrelevant


Every year, thousands of teenagers nationwide take a standardized admissions test in the hopes that a high score will help them into the college or university of their choice.

Students face stress, hours of studying, and sometimes hundreds of dollars spent in test preparation materials and classes, but some are left wondering: was it worth it?

This week, former Bates College Dean of Admissions William Hiss gave his answer to that question.

In a two-year study measuring the success of students who are accepted into “test-optional” institutions—colleges and universities that accept but don’t require standardized test scores—Hiss said that high school grade point averages are a much better indicator of how well a student will fare in college than SAT or ACT test scores.

“I was surprised at the highly reliable correlation between high school GPA and four year college GPA,” Hiss told the AFRO. “The testing largely faded into the background—it had small predictive value, but not very much.”

“The students who had good high school records, even with a very wide range of test scores, performed perfectly well in a wide variety of college and university settings,” he added. “Students whose academic records in high school weren’t terribly strong, even with much higher [SAT or ACT] test scores, did not do as well.”

Hiss’ study looked at a wide variety of colleges and institutions, including five colleges aimed specifically at serving the country’s minority and non-traditional student population.

“These are the institutions that are doing the heavy lifting; these are the schools that are reaching out to people who really need access to higher education,” said Hiss. “Many of them are older, and returning to college at age 25, a full cycle older than the kids normally entering college at 18.”

Hiss said that along with older students, a variety of other groups are being held back by colleges which dismiss applications based on standardized test scores: first-generation college students, all categories of minority students, marginally more women then men, Pell grant recipients, low income students, and students with learning disabilities.

“The testing artificially truncates the pools of applicants who would succeed if they were let in and given a chance,” he said. “All the subgroups that folk wisdom would tell you are people not being much helped by testing in the admissions process are more apt to be non-submitters, and they do fine.”

Hiss, who worked at Bates College for 20 years, said that institution began allowing students to decide whether to submit test scores in 1984. Since that time, Hiss said grade point averages and graduation rates of Bates’ non-submitters and submitters are exactly the same.

Today, according to the report, there are more than 800 colleges that accept students without SAT or ACT scores.

According to information released by the SAT, a test operated by The College Board, the first standardized test began in 1901. Last year, ACT reports said 1,799,243 took their test, also offered through The College Board. According to information released by the SAT, the test is administered in over 170 countries around the globe more than three million times a year.

Study: ACT, SAT Test Scores Irrelevant

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