Yale admissions dean says ‘standardized tests are imperfect and incomplete alone,’ but he’s still bringing back SAT and ACT requirements

Yale University is bringing back the SAT and ACT as requirements for undergraduate admission after years of not asking students to submit standardized exams.  

The school will begin the change in the fall and will also accept scores from Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams as an alternative to the SAT or ACT, Yale said in a statement Thursday.

“Standardized tests are imperfect and incomplete alone, but I also believe scores can help establish a student’s academic preparedness for college-level work,” said Jeremiah Quinlan, Yale’s dean of admissions and financial aid. “When used together with other elements in an application, especially a high school transcript, test scores help establish the academic foundation for any case we consider.”

Most colleges stopped requiring the examinations during the pandemic when test centers closed. But it also represented for some schools an ideological experiment after years of criticism that testing favored wealthy applicants who could afford extra coaching. 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was the first elite college to reverse its decision, while Dartmouth announced its change this month.

The schools cited studies showing how important standardized tests are in providing context to student performance and that requiring testing is beneficial in recruiting diverse and low-income students. That’s taken on added relevancy as schools recruit students after last year’s Supreme Court ruling that banned considering race in admissions.

Data collected by Yale showed that test scores predict academic performance in its undergraduate college and there’s a statistically significant difference in average grade point average between those who applied with and without test scores.

“Simply put, students with higher scores have been more likely to have higher Yale GPAs, and test scores are the single greatest predictor of a student’s performance in Yale courses in every model we have constructed,” Quinlan said. 

The school’s analysis found that applicants without tests scores have been less likely to be admitted. This was especially true for applicants from lower-income backgrounds and those attending high schools with fewer college-prep courses.

When schools scrapped tests, more students applied. Yale saw an increase of 66% over four years to more than 57,000 students this year. 

“The pool has become larger, but we have not seen that it grew to include many more applicants with strong academic preparation,” Quinlan said. 

Applications without scores can inadvertently leave admission officers with “scant evidence of their readiness for Yale,” which can hurt students from less wealthy high schools. The scores meanwhile can help determine how they may perform. 

“When students attending these high schools include a score with their application — even a score below Yale’s median range — they give the committee greater confidence that they are likely to achieve academic success in college,” Quinlan said.

Yale said it will also accept an AP or IB test instead of the SAT or ACT, which would signal to admissions officers reading a file that an applicant can do the work, Quinlan said. Yale didn’t want to limit students, for example, from California who might not be taking the SAT or ACT since the University of California system eliminated the testing requirement in 2020. 

“When we open up an application, the first question that our readers ask is can the student do the work at Yale?” Quinlan said in a follow up interview.

Most selective colleges are sticking with their test optional policies. Harvard and Cornell University have announced extensions, and Columbia University said last year it wouldn’t require tests for undergraduate admissions. The University of Chicago dropped the requirement in 2018.

More than 80% of four-year colleges aren’t requiring the test for those applying in fall 2025, according to FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a nonprofit that has led the “test optional” movement for 30 years.

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