Inside Higher Ed Releases 2018 Survey of Admissions Leaders, Revealing Thoughts on Standardized Testing

Every year, Inside Higher Ed conducts a survey of the people in charge of U.S. college admissions. The survey includes employees at both public and private schools that range in size from associate-degree-granting community colleges to large doctoral institutions.

This year, Inside Higher Ed reached out to 499 admissions directors. The survey queried high school guidance counselors as well.

The survey offers a revelatory inside look at what admissions directors think about the state of their profession, and its future. It’s well worth looking at the whole document, which you can download from Inside Higher Ed’s website.

In this post, we’ll discuss some survey results that indicate changing attitudes towards standardized testing.

ACT and SAT Essays Under Scrutiny

If you’ve taken the ACT or SAT essay portion, received a score that surprised you, and wondered if this portion of the test is an accurate representation of your writing abilities, you aren’t alone.

Inside Higher Ed’s 2018 survey revealed that a stunning 75 per cent of admissions officers think that the SAT and ACT should do away with the essay portion. Only 12 per cent said that they gained useful information from the SAT essay, and only 13 per cent said the same about the ACT essay.

Fifty-one per cent of surveyed admissions officers support an alternative way of gauging the writing ability of applicants: requiring applicants to submit an essay they completed for one of their high school classes.

Growing Interest in Making Tests Optional

Further evidence of changing attitudes towards standardized testing came in the wake of the University of Chicago’s decision to make submitting SAT and ACT scores completely optional for applicants. Because UChicago is a strong and influential school, 56 per cent of admissions officers believe that UChicago’s decision will be emulated by other institutions.

Only 17 per cent of admissions directors that their school was considering going test-optional, but it seems likely that this number will increase in the coming years.

Sixty-two per cent of those surveyed also made a point that should offer some encouragement to students concerned about the average test scores at their schools of choice. These admissions officials stated that the emphasis on average scores “discourage[s] many students from applying to colleges where they could be admitted and thrive.”

Finally, Inside Higher Ed reached out to high school guidance counselors for their thoughts on standardized testing. While 59 per cent would like all schools to make standardized testing optional, about half of the counselors noted that few of their students are aware of which schools are already test-optional.

What’s Next?

Given the increasing openness of university admissions workers to reassess the role of standardized testing, it’s likely that important conversations about the necessity of standardized testing will continue.

However, it’s not clear how quickly the opinions of the admissions workers will translate to concrete changes in school policy.

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