Matt’s Past SAT/ACT News Update:

Matt O'Connor

Jun 14, 2018

The University of Chicago has dropped its requirement for the submission of SAT/ACT scores from its US applicants. U Chicago is by far the most selective (at 7.2% acceptance rate for the fall of 2018) and highly-ranked (tied for 3rd place in the US News rankings among National Universities) US institution to adopt a test optional policy.

Nick Anderson covers the University of Chicago story in a Washington Post article.


The University of Chicago will no longer require ACT or SAT scores from U.S. students, sending a jolt through elite institutions of higher education as it becomes the first top-10 research university to join the test-optional movement.

Numerous schools, including well-known liberal arts colleges, have dropped or pared back testing mandates in recent years to bolster recruiting in a crowded market. But the announcement Thursday by the university was a watershed, cracking what had been a solid and enduring wall of support for the primary admission tests among the two dozen most prestigious research universities.

The private university in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood admits fewer than 10 percent of applicants and ranks third on the U.S. News & World Report list of top national universities, after Princeton and Harvard and tied with Yale. It has required prospective freshmen to take a national admission test since 1957. Before that, it screened applicants with its own tests.

"Testing is not the be-all and the end-all," said James G. Nondorf, U-Chicago's dean of admissions and financial aid. He said he didn't want "one little test score" to end up "scaring students off" who are otherwise qualified.

U-Chicago has an ultralow admission rate (7 percent) and high test scores (three-quarters of last year's freshmen who took the SAT scored at least 1480). Officials say their policy shift has nothing to do with rankings.

"It is about doing the RIGHT thing," Nondorf wrote in an email. "Which is helping students and families of all backgrounds better understand and navigate this process and about bringing students with intellectual promise (no matter their background) to UChicago (and making sure they succeed here too!)."

Below are excerpts from an article by Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed covering the U Chicago story.


Hundreds of colleges -- including elite liberal arts colleges -- have stopped requiring the SAT or ACT. But Chicago's move is the first by one of the very top research universities in the country. And the move is striking coming from an institution, known for its academic rigor, that has had no difficulty attracting top applicants.

For the class that enrolled in September 2017, the university received 27,694 applicants and admitted 2,419. The middle 50 percent of the range of SAT scores of admitted applicants was 1460 to 1550.

The California Assembly has passed the "Pathways to College Act" that would allow school districts to substitute the SAT/ACT for California's own Common Core-aligned statewide exam for federal accountability purposes. The bill (A.B. No. 1951) will be taken up by the California senate education committee on June 20th.

The College Board and ACT, Inc. have released new concordance tables to equate scores on the new SAT versus the ACT. The College Board page with links to a pdf of the tables is here, and the ACT page is here. The new concordance table are based on the actual results of 589,753 students who were graduating seniors in 2017 and who took both the ACT and the new SAT tests between February 2016 (for the ACT) or March 2016 (for the SAT) and June 2017.

Forbes has published an article ("What Predicts College Completion? High School GPA Beats SAT Score") that outlines a recent paper written by Matthew Chingos, co-author of Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Public Universities.

[Excerpts from the Forbes article]:

The SAT and similar tests exist to account for differences in how high schools grade students. Some teachers feel pressured to give students high marks despite middling academic performance, a phenomenon known as grade inflation. Certain high schools may run more rigorous courses than others. As a result, an A-average GPA at one high school might be equivalent to a B+ at another.

As SAT scores are a more consistent indicator of aptitude, one might expect them to better predict a student’s chances of graduating college than high school GPA. But Chingos’ research shows exactly the opposite.

Using a sample of students who attended a group of less selective four-year public colleges and universities, Chingos calculates a student’s likelihood of graduation based on both her high school GPA and her SAT or ACT score. While better marks on both measures predict a better chance of completion, the relationship between high school GPA and graduation rates is by far the strongest.

For instance, a student with a high SAT score (above 1100) but a middling high school GPA (between 2.67 and 3.0) has an expected graduation rate of 39%. But students with the opposite credentials—mediocre SAT scores but high GPAs—graduate from college at a 62% rate.

Yale University has dropped its requirement for the SAT/ACT essay.


Yale’s decision leaves just 26 colleges across the country that still require applicants to submit scores from the essay sections of the SAT and ACT, according to the Princeton Review.

“We hope [the new policy] will enable more students who participate in school-day administrations of the SAT or ACT to apply to Yale without needing to register for an additional test,” Quinlan said in the email.

In recent years, many high schools across the country have begun allowing students to take the SAT or ACT during the school day for free — but in some states, such as Connecticut, the in-school tests do not include the essay portion. If students opt to retake the test at their own expense, the essay portion costs an additional $14, while the writing section of the ACT costs $16.50 more.

Articles covering the Yale announcement have been written by Nick Anderson of the Washington Post, and Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed. John Warner of Inside Higher Ed offers his views on the recent de-emphasis of the SAT essay by elite college admissions offices in his article, "So Long, SAT Essay. Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out."

Michigan's state Senate has approved a bill to no longer require teachers to attain a minimum score on the SAT. The bill now moves to the state assembly. Prospective teachers will still have to pass the Michigan Test for Teaching Certification to earn state certification.