Yale to Require Standardized Test Scores for Admissions

Yale to Require Standardized Test Scores for Admissions

Yale University will require standardized test scores for students applying for the class entering in the fall of 2025, becoming the second Ivy League university to abandon test-optional policies that had been widely embraced during the Covid pandemic.

Yale officials said in an announcement on Thursday that the shift to test-optional policies might have unwittingly harmed students from lower-income families whose test scores could have helped their chances.

While it will require standardized tests, Yale said its policy would be “test flexible,” permitting students to submit scores from subject-based Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests in lieu of SAT or ACT scores.

Yale’s decision, which will not affect students who applied during the current admissions cycle, followed a similar decision in February from Dartmouth College. Dartmouth, in Hanover, N.H., said an analysis had found that hundreds of students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who had solid scores — in the 1,400 range on the SAT — had declined to submit them, fearing that they fell too far below the perfect 1,600. In 2022, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that it had reinstated its testing requirement.

These institutions remain in the minority. Many decided to keep their test optional policies in place as the pandemic waned. Columbia announced last year it is test optional, and Harvard has said it is test optional through the class that will graduate in 2030.

The California university system has enacted a “test-blind” policy, meaning they will not look at scores, even if they are submitted.

The University of Michigan, one of the country’s most selective public universities, announced on Wednesday that it was moving to a test-optional policy, which it said was a move to “providing access to high-achieving students from all backgrounds.” Michigan had previously used a test-flexible policy.

More than 80 percent of four-year colleges — or at least 1,825 of the nation’s institutions that grant bachelor degrees — will not require SAT or ACT scores this fall, according to the organization FairTest, which has fought against standardized testing. In 2022, the number of students taking the SAT dropped to 1.7 million, a decline from 2.2 million in 2020.

The anti-testing movement has long said that standardized tests help fuel inequality, because many students from affluent families use tutors and coaches to bolster their scores.

But recent research has questioned whether test-optional policies may actually hurt the very students they were meant to help.

In January, Opportunity Insights, a group of economists based at Harvard, published a study that found that test scores could help identify lower-income students and students from underrepresented populations who would thrive in college. High scores from less privileged students can signal high potential.

Yale, in New Haven, Conn., said that test scores were particularly valuable in evaluating students who attend high schools with fewer academic resources or college preparatory courses.

Jeremiah Quinlan, the dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale, said in a statement that the university had determined that test scores, while imperfect, were predictive of academic success in college.

“Simply put,” he said, “students with higher scores have been more likely to have higher Yale G.P.A.s, and test scores are the single greatest predictor of a student’s performance in Yale courses in every model we have constructed.”

When students do not submit test scores, the admissions committee focuses on other elements of the student’s file, Mr. Quinlan said.

“For students attending well-resourced high schools, substitutes for standardized tests are relatively easy to find: Transcripts brim with advanced courses, teachers are accustomed to praising students’ unique classroom contributions, and activities lists are full of enrichment opportunities,” he said in the statement. “Increased emphasis on these elements, we found, has the effect of advantaging the advantaged.”

After the Supreme Court’s decision last year banning race-conscious admissions, many experts predicted that some schools would use test-optional policies to protect themselves from future litigation. In the cases against Harvard and the University of North Carolina, standardized test scores were used to show disparate admissions treatment for some ethnic and racial groups.

In an interview, Mr. Quinlan said Yale took that into account in its decision over whether to reinstate test requirements.

“I think we’re pretty confident that we can still run a pretty thoughtful and legal admissions process with this policy,” Mr. Quinlan said. “We couldn’t let that legal concern, or let potential litigation, impact this important decision.”

In making its announcement, Yale released the middle range of SAT and ACT scores of its 2020 first-year class. Since Yale instituted a test-optional policy, the university said that roughly half its applicants had not submitted SAT or ACT scores.

Applications to Yale and other highly selective schools have spiked as a result of test optional policies. Yale, which has an acceptance rate of about 4 percent, said recently that it had received over 57,000 applications for this fall’s admission, a record number and an increase of about 20,000 since 2019, before the pandemic. The increase included a huge number of international students, Mr. Quinlan said.

“The quality and quantity were not increasing in lock step,” Mr. Quinlan said.

Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, downplayed the potential impact of Yale’s move. “Since an overwhelming percentage of future Yale applicants will have taken Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams, which have long been a factor in admissions at super-selective institutions, the impact will not be very significant,” he said.

He did, however, think the new policy could create a barrier to international students, some of whom have complained about limited access to standardized tests.

“I think it’s safe to say we will see some decrease moving forward,” Mr. Quinlan said. “We don’t want more applications. We want the right applications.”

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