Education

Test-Optional Policies Now Dominate Higher Ed

Admissions policies that give applicants the option of whether to submit their standardized test scores have been growing steadily over the years, sparked by long-running concerns about how the tests can contribute to racial and socioeconomic inequality and more-immediate pandemic-driven logistical challenges.

Lately, a sea change has overtaken higher education: Over 800 institutions shifted to test-optional policies between the fall 2019 and fall 2021 admissions cycles, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education. Only about 160 institutions still classify themselves as requiring test scores.

The change has become sufficiently widespread that the Education Department will incorporate choices for test-optional, test-blind, and test-required in its data collection, the first update to this part of its admissions table since it was created seven years ago.

Which institutions have made this change, and what effects has it had? See below.

What happened to test scores at test-optional institutions?

To see how submission rates and test scores changed from 2019 to 2021 at institutions that went test-optional, search below.

 



NOTE: This table includes only institutions that were not test-optional in fall 2019 and switched to this status in either fall 2020 or fall 2021. If institutions do not require applicants to submit test scores, they do not have to report scores to the Education Department. In such cases, “N/A” appears. Changes are calculated from fall 2019 to fall 2021.

Methodology

This analysis looks at over 1,400 institutions that reported their admissions data to the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (Ipeds) for the fall 2021 admissions year. The data set does not include institutions with an open-admissions policy. Only Title IV, degree-granting, four-year institutions that admitted more than 50 students in the fall of 2021 were included. For-profit institutions were excluded.

Ipeds presents four categories for universities to choose from when reporting their admissions considerations: “required,” “recommended,” “considered but not required,” or “neither required nor recommended.” Test-optional is defined as any institution that did not report that test scores were “required.” This includes all institutions that listed test scores as “recommended,” “considered but not required,” and “neither required nor recommended.”


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