Wake Forest University

SAT scores don't tell the entire story

Rethinking Admissions

Continuing the Conversation

SAT scores don't tell the entire story

Editorial from the Winston-Salem Journal.

It never hurts to prove the boss right, but that wasn’t Professor Joseph Soares’ motive with a new book blasting college-entrance exams.

The Wake Forest University sociologist’s book “SAT Wars” highlights the wisdom his employer showed in 2008 when it dropped the SAT as a requirement for admission. Since then, WFU has admitted stronger and more diverse classes.

Critics of the SAT, which is owned by the College Board, say it is biased toward the affluent, ethnic majorities, those with a particular form of intelligence, and that it is a poor predictor of student performance in college.

Since dropping its SAT requirement and becoming a “test-optional” school, WFU has become more racially and socio-economically diverse and seen an increase in the number of applicants with stellar high-school transcripts.

High-school students with strong academic records can be scared away from schools with high-achieving student bodies. They have competitive grades but see that average SAT scores are above theirs. So they apply elsewhere. In such cases, the SAT harms both the university and the intimidated student. Wake Forest was wise to opt out of that disadvantaged position.

Most university admissions departments consider many factors beyond the SAT. They know that it does not measure student creativity, drive or character. Nonetheless, it is a required criterion, and low scores can severely hamper a student’s chances of admission even though a student’s high-school record is the best indicator of how he or she will do in college.

The College Board has tried to accommodate its serious critics and improve the test, but this effort is fruitless because the basic concept behind such tests is flawed. Some excellent students do poorly on standardized tests, while some poor students do very well.

More colleges should follow WFU’s lead. Students who do well on standardized-admissions tests can be allowed to submit their scores and help themselves. But students who prefer to skip the tests and rely on their much more important school records should have that option, too.

Comments are closed.