What The Test-Free Admissions Movement Means

Nearly 80% of colleges and universities are now test-optional for admissions. It’s a movement that experts say has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic—when in-person testing became difficult to do effectively.

“There’s a realization that mastery of material, the ability to perform under pressure and to persist at a task, and to think critically are skills that cannot be captured in a test,” Constance Borro, founder of Ivy Tutor Connection, tells US News.


The University of California (UC) was one of the latest institutions to join the test-free admissions movement.

“When you have the most prestigious university system in the nation’s most populous state functioning without test scores and developing ways to do admissions fairly and accurately without them, it’s very significant,” Bob Schaeffer, executive director of FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing, tells the Los Angeles Times. “UC already is and increasingly will become a national model for test-free admissions.”

Proponents of test-free admissions argue that high school grades offer a better admissions tool for colleges (as opposed to standardized tests) and allow for less bias when it comes to aspects such as race and income.

“The UCs prepare California’s future leaders in academia, in industry, and in public service,” says Mo Hyman, executive director of College Access Plan, in a press release. “It is our hope that this agreement helps UC officials to align with the system’s vision to recruit and educate California’s best and brightest from all backgrounds. We also hope it causes public institutions everywhere to rethink their relationship with The College Board and reliance on its products, which perpetuate privilege and exacerbate racism in institutions of higher learning.”


While colleges and universities are moving away from standardized testing for admissions, experts say many private high schools still view the exams as an important component in admissions and are still in the ‘in-between’ phase.

“High schools will likely keep reviewing their test-optional policies,” Christine Chu, a former assistant director of undergraduate admissions at both Yale and Georgetown, tells US News.

For applicants, that means preparing and taking an entrance exam to ensure they are putting the best foot forward in high school admissions.

“With a test-optional policy, admission-based high schools continue to utilize other components to evaluate applications, including academic records, recommendations, essays, and interviews,” Chu tells US News.

Sources: US News, Axios, LA Times

Next Page: Grades matter more than you think in admissions.

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