Test results count again at MIT

The Great Dome at Killian Court on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in Cambridge, Mass.


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Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg News

The attack on merit and achievement has gained momentum as more American universities have abandoned standardized test scores as an admissions requirement. Congratulations to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for announcing Monday that it will again require SAT or ACT scores from prospective applicants after dropping the requirement for two years.

“Our ability to accurately predict the academic success of students at MIT is significant be improved by accommodating standardized tests — particularly in math,” wrote Stu Schmill, dean of admissions and student finance, in a blog post.

Mr Schmill added that the tests “help us identify academically prepared, socio-economically disadvantaged students who might not otherwise show readiness”. These students may not have access to piccolo classes, excursions to the Galapagos Islands, or advanced placement courses, which can increase a student’s chances of admission.

This is a crucial point related to the claim that standardized tests are biased towards poor and minority students. Tests can actually find diamonds in the high school rough.

A University of California task force found in 2020 that standardized test scores are “better indicators of success for students” who belong to minorities or come from low-income families. The SAT helped UC “identify students who came from relatively privileged backgrounds who may have the potential to be successful at the university.”

Abitur grade point averages – which are often inflated – could otherwise be given too much weight in admissions. A Stanford study last year found that essay quality, another factor in college admissions, is more strongly associated with a student’s family income than SAT scores. This is not a surprise as these families can more easily afford tutors or writing consultants.

The UC report recommended keeping the standardized testing requirement. The university system chose to ignore this advice and scrap the results anyway, but Mr. Schmill cites the UC report in support of the MIT decision.

The University of Chicago dropped its testing requirements in 2018, and schools like Harvard and Cornell did so in 2020, citing Covid. The SAT and ACT should not be the only measures used in admissions, but they are an important indicator of a student’s ability to meet academic standards at the college. Perhaps MIT’s decision will give other schools the courage to reintroduce the tests and keep standards high.

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Appeared in the print edition of March 31, 2022.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/test-scores-count-again-at-mit-sat-act-standardized-tests-college-admissions-stu-schmill-11648660756 Test results count again at MIT

Ethan Gach

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