Wake Forest University

Holistic vs mechanical assessment

Rethinking Admissions

Continuing the Conversation

Holistic vs mechanical assessment

Scott Highhouse, professor of industrial-organization psychology at Bowling Green State University, challenged the current assumption that “holistic approaches” to college admissions is better than mechanical ones. “I’m not going to advocate for the SAT,” he said right off the bat, but for standardized procedures, whatever they might be. He is an expert in industrial-organization psychology – how you select and assess people.

A holistic approach sounds great, but hasn’t lived up to its expectations, he said. Why do people believe that an intuitive approach to assessment is superior to an analytical one? Because they have an erroneous belief in their ability to predict human behavior, he said. When looking at things such as high school grades and college GPA, you can measure a certain level of correlation. But when you add in human opinion to that equation the results are actually less reliable. Test scores aren’t perfect measures, but are not improved by adding a holistic approach, he concluded.

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