The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will reinstate its standardized testing requirement for admission after finding that not having access to SAT or ACT scores “tends to raise socioeconomic barriers to demonstrating readiness for our education,” the university announced Monday.
“After careful consideration, we have decided to reinstate our SAT/ACT requirement for future admissions cycles,” dean of admissions and student financial services Stu Schmill said in a statement. “Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT.”
Schmill said the school believes a testing requirement is “more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy,” breaking with many other elite universities who have dropped testing requirements amid criticism that wealthier students who can afford expensive preparation classes have an advantage in standardized testing.
The testing requirement will apply to first-year students or transfer students who want to enroll at MIT in 2023.
Schmill said his office has a research and analysis team that “continuously studies our processes, outcomes, and criteria to make sure we remain mission-driven and student-centered.”
The team’s research during the pandemic found that the school’s ability to accurately predict student academic success at MIT is “significantly improved by considering standardized testing — especially in mathematics — alongside other factors” and that while “some standardized exams besides the SAT/ACT can help us evaluate readiness” that “access to these other exams is generally relative to the SAT/ACT.”
The release notes that while the school’s research is specific to MIT, that the findings directionally align with a study conducted by the University of California’s Standardized Testing Task Force, which found that including SAT/ACT scores predicted undergraduate performance better than grades alone and helped admissions officers identify well-prepared students from less-advantaged backgrounds.
Leaders of the University of California system voted last May to permanently eliminate test score requirements. Meanwhile, all of the Ivy League schools will remain test optional for at least one more year, the New York Times reported.
MIT said its findings were also consistent with research compiled by education researcher Susan Dynarski that showed standardized testing can be an effective way to identify talented disadvantaged students who would otherwise go unrecognized.
Schmill told the New York Times that MIT did not publish its research data to protect the privacy of its students.
He said the decision to reinstate the testing requirement is “a very MIT specific decision.”
“I’m not saying that this is the right decision for any or every other school,” he told the paper. “But for us, we think this is the right decision.”
MIT said it saw a 66 increase in applications last year, when 33,240 students applied to join the class of 2025. The university typically enrolls just 1,000 students per year.
While 1,075 four-year colleges and universities instituted test-optional policies before the pandemic, including the University of Chicago, an additional 750 colleges and universities waived the requirement during the pandemic, Bob Schaeffer, executive director at the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, told the New York Times.
He said more than two-thirds of the 2,330 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. have extended test-optional policies at least through fall 2023.
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