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Credit: Isabel Liang

The University of California System is dropping the SAT and ACT testing requirements for first-year applicants, raising questions about whether universities like Penn will follow.

The UC system announced on Thursday it will eliminate the use of the SAT and ACT in admissions for in-state applicants beginning in fall 2023, and in fall 2025 for out-of-state applicants, The New York Times reported. The UC system, which includes ten schools such as the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, Los Angeles, also announced in April the SAT and ACT would be optional for admissions cycles in fall 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Brian Taylor, managing director of New York City-based college admissions consulting firm Ivy Coach, believes the UC system's decision will influence other universities, and said it is likely that highly selective universities, such as Ivy League institutions, will be test-optional in the future. 

The use of standardized testing in college admissions has been criticized for being unconstitutional and discriminatory towards Black, Latinx, and low-income students, who are less likely to be able to afford testing preparation, the Times reported in December. In a lawsuit filed against the UC system, the plaintiffs alleged that test scores do not take into account different challenges students face.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the modification of SAT and ACT testing policies in colleges across the country, leading Penn and other Ivy League institutions to change their testing requirements for the Class of 2025. Although Penn still requires first-year applicants to submit an SAT or ACT exam score, SAT Subject Tests will be optional for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle. The University has not yet indicated whether its modified testing policy will extend beyond this year. 

Along with the UC system, other institutions across the country have decided to make SAT and ACT exams an optional submission for first-year applicants. The University of Chicago, for example, became test-optional in 2018. 

Taylor said there is a clear distinction between test-optional policies and policies that do not allow the submission of test scores at all. Just because a school is test-optional, Taylor said, does not mean an applicant should refrain from submitting scores to a university.

“I would argue that test-optional colleges want to see test scores even more, because these schools still need to submit test scores to U.S. News and World Report, and that impacts the rankings,” Taylor said. “The kids who submit great scores have a distinct advantage.”

Yale University is currently the only Ivy League institution that will not consider SAT Subject Tests for the Class of 2025, and even advised its applicants not to report SAT Subject Test scores this year.

Taylor believes the changes college admissions offices are making to testing requirements are not temporary.

“Once you go test-optional, you don’t go back,” Taylor said. “For schools that forbid the submission [of test scores], I don’t see them loosening those restrictions in the future.”

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