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Test-optional Increases Diversity?

Pre-pandemic, one of the most prominent arguments against using standardized tests like the SAT and ACT in college admissions was that the test scores favored wealthy and highly educated applicants.

And by accepting students with good test scores, the assumption was that colleges were crafting less diverse student bodies. For this reason, the number of colleges with test-optional policies was growing.

Then the pandemic hit. Schools had little choice but to go test-optional.

Post-pandemic, some schools are now test-blind (UCs and CSUs), some schools are test-required (MIT, state schools in both Florida and Georgia), and most are still test-optional.

However, the question still remains as to which policy will actually increase the diversity of its student bodies.

According to this study, when colleges go test-optional, there is little increase in student diversity. The difference in diversity gains measured between test-optional and test-required schools was about 1%. That's not too much.

Of course, there is the argument that using test scores in admission can actually increase diversity. Even the UCs themselves, before going test-blind, "did not find evidence that the UC's use of test scores played a role in worsening the disparities already present among applicants and did find evidence that UC's admission process helped to make up for the potential adverse effect of score differences between groups."

So does going test-optional mean greater diversity?

Simply put, there is no simple answer. It's complicated.

Standardized test scores are not the magic wand for college admissions. I would like to hope most colleges know this. Test scores are just one data point that should be weighed against a myriad of other factors.

And if diversity is the goal, maybe standardization in general needs to be redefined?

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