Indiana University leaders move forward with test-optional admissions policy

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind.-- Future Indiana University Hoosiers could soon decide if they want to include their standardized test scores on their college application. The university is one step closer to a test-optional policy.

“It’s simply a way to offer a chance to broaden the pool of applicants for people who may not necessarily test well, but they obviously demonstrated a high academic quality through their GPA," said IU spokesman Chuck Carney.

It’s a discussion that’s happening across the country and universities in the Hoosier state are taking notice. It’s now up to leadership from each IU campus to set its own policy.

“It’s not necessary that all of them will go test-optional right away, but they can decide to do that if they want to," said Carney.

Carney says the Board of Trustees approved the test-optional policy change this month. He says there’s more than 1,000 institutions who have gone this route and it’s time the Hoosiers get on board.

Students we spoke with say they see both sides of the issue.

“I think it’s going to create some issues with the application process, because it’s a major part of the application process,” said Junior Jenna Lentz. “However, I know a lot of people struggle with test anxiety as well as standardized questions aren’t always comprehensive for people’s knowledge.”

“It’s a really good change to give a chance to their whole body of work in high school and who they are as an individual show, not just the number that they produce on one test,” said Sophomore Matt Cohen.

It’s a decision that’s varies. At Ball State University and Indiana State University students already choose if they want to take or release their SAT or ACT results. At Purdue University and Butler University scores are still required.

IUPUI is managed by Indiana University, so their policies could change, but certain programs may still require testing.

“It’s not something we’re pioneering per say, but it’s something we think we’re making a statement about because being a leading state institution as we are, we’re saying this is something that’s important for us to consider,” said Carney.

A spokesperson with the company that developed the ACT said in a statement:

ACT respects the right of every college to establish the admission policies that best meet its own needs and those of its students.

That said, research suggests that ACT scores add meaningful insight to admission decisions and significant value above and beyond other predictors of college success.

ACT scores are standardized, so they mean the same thing, reflecting the same level of academic achievement, regardless of when or where a student took the test. The same is not true of high school grades or courses taken, which can differ dramatically in meaning across schools. So, ACT scores allow colleges to directly compare the academic readiness of students from different schools, cities, and states on a level playing field. No other factor used in admission decisions can do that. Comparing students without using a standardized measure of readiness increases the subjectivity of admissions decisions, potentially making them less fair, not more fair.

ACT urges colleges to use ACT scores as one of multiple factors in the admission process. We believe when you are making decisions that impact students’ lives, more information is always better than less information. The best predictor of college success is not high school grades nor test scores alone but rather the combination of the two—grades and test scores together. Hundreds of independent studies have shown this to be true.

Finally, research suggests test-optional admissions policies have done little to meet colleges’ expressed goals of expanding educational opportunity for low-income and minority students. Claims that test optional policies result in greater campus diversity have not been substantiated in independent research. The literature suggests that test optional policies might result in an increase in the number of applicants, while the diversity of students who actually enroll remains largely unaffected.

A spokesperson with The College Board, the developers of the SAT released a statement:

The College Board’s mission isn’t to ensure all colleges require the SAT, it’s to expand access to college for more students and help them succeed when they get there. We work closely with test optional institutions. They are our members, they participate in our programs, and representatives from test optional colleges have served on our Board of Trustees. Most still use the SAT in the recruitment and admissions process in some way. Whether required for admission or not, SAT scores help colleges create data-driven programs to ensure admitted students get the supports they need to graduate. We’ll continue to help them use the SAT in ways that meet their missions. We believe an SAT score should never be a veto on any student’s life. We continue to work with educators to ensure there are many ways students can show their potential to succeed.

Grades and test scores serve as a check and balance in the admissions process. Together they provide more insight into a student’s potential to succeed than either measure alone. The College Board's 2019 National Validity Study, based on data from more than 223,000 students across 171 four-year colleges, confirmed that SAT scores are strongly predictive of college performance.

“Allowing an opportunity for students who may not be from a background where they could pay for the test prep, where they would have access to some areas that other students might,” said Carney.

For more on the test-optional policy at Indiana University, click here. The policy change would affect students applying for the fall 2021 semester.

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