top of page

New Research Reveals Colleges Made a Mistake Going Test-Optional

By Laura Whitmore

I was driving in my car yesterday listening to one of my favorite podcasts, NYT's The Daily. As a test prep coach for the past 17 years, this episode felt important - I had to listen to this.... but I was scared.

I hit play with trepidation. What were they going to say? People have been bashing the SATs for so long now. It's been difficult for me because I know how valuable these tests can be...

I'm not the only one who knows the importance of standardized testing in the college application process - the 4.6% of schools who went back to test required also knew. MIT, one of the few schools to go test required, assessed their data for the past 15 years and found that students who scored higher on the SAT/ACT did better at their University.

The studies I personally have read over the past few years have shown that GPA alone isn't the best indicator of student readiness for college - especially at elite universities. GPA, when paired with a test score, gives admissions officers a more wholistic snapshot of the student's probability of succeeding at their institutions.

However, the podcast yesterday touched on a more recent study, which is showing an alarming trend. Grade inflation has run rampant since COVID, with 80% of students nationwide boasting 'A' averages. This makes it near impossible for admissions to determine who is college ready and who is not, let alone compare two students from different schools with each other.

For this reason, many administrators in higher education are now admitting that GPA as an indicator cannot be trusted and are putting more reliance on standardized test results....

Not only that, but the extreme left, which pushed for abolishing standardized tests, has claimed that the SAT and ACT prevent diversity at colleges. However, the podcast revealed that the diversity issue is a systemic problem and in actuality, these tests help students from lower income and less advantaged situations shine. What is truly hurting these students is their inability to compete with their more privileged peers, who have the resources to engage in prestigious extracurriculars:

Children with privilege are the ones who put that that did an internship at Johns Hopkins on their resume.

Children with privilege are able to travel the world and speak about their experience with various cultures.

You see the point.

The podcast also touched on how the disparity in test scores happens well before the SAT/ACT come into play. There is an elementary school test called the NAPE, and data from that test reveals that white and Asian students perform far better than black and latino students. Our educational system is not created equal. Some schools are just better than others. It comes down to which neighborhood you grow up in.

But, if schools can see with an SAT score that a student has potential, even if it's a little lower than their privileged peers, that helps the student get in when they lack these glamorous extracurriculars.

I can relate to this. I grew up in a one-income blue collar home. We didn't have money for test prep. I was just naturally good at tests and landed a 1420 with no preparation. It helped my application stand out and got me the merit-based aid I needed to afford a top-30 school. When I hear people say that rich students perform better on the test, I cringe, because my story goes against that notion.

What is frustrating is that although the data reveals that these standardized tests are valuable and not the villain, schools are reluctant to go back to making them required. Our educational system is too politicized now and colleges fear the backlash...

I am hopeful that the future of education can find a balance and recognize that test scores are not the alpha and omega, but a crucial supporting indicator of a child's college readiness. We shall see what happens in the years to come... The percentage of students who drop out of college has been rising at alarming rates, and I anticipate that drop out rates will continue to rise if we stick with these test-optional policies indefinitely.

In the meantime, I am continuing to help the students who are willing to go above and beyond and work on the SATs to help them stand out from the crowd....

Thanks for reading!


bottom of page