UVA Reconsidering Use of Standardized Testing in Undergraduate Admissions

In an exclusive interview with WUVA, Dean of Admissions Greg Roberts said his office is “having serious discussions” about the use of standardized testing in undergraduate admissions at UVA, specifically in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are keeping an eye on things regarding standardized testing,” Roberts said. “We find testing to be a useful tool, but it is a blunt instrument. It’s not perfect.”

Over the past decade, there has been a growing movement against standardized testing. Critics have argued that the tests disadvantage minority and low-income students, citing lower average scores in those demographics.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only added to these concerns. 

More than a million students have had their test dates cancelled so far, and both the SAT and ACT have announced plans to move the test online if the pandemic continues into the fall.

“If [the tests] are only offered online that to me creates a lot of problems,” Roberts said. “What if a student has unreliable internet access or a disruptive home environment? It makes it difficult to offer a fair and equitable test.”

Roberts explained that UVA has continued to utilize standardized testing largely because of research showing that testing, “when combined with the high school transcript, is a strong predictor of college success.”

But he also admitted that the tests can be inaccurate in many ways.

“[Tests] are flawed, no doubt, since there is a correlation between test scores and family income,” he said. “However, our team considers the context of the scores and the applicant’s background in our holistic admission review.”

The reconsideration also comes as a wave of schools across the country have suspended their testing requirement, either temporarily or permanently.

The University of California ⁠— one of the most prominent public school systems in the country ⁠— announced in May they would make testing optional in the coming year and phase out testing entirely by 2024.

Meanwhile, the College of William & Mary will become test-optional for the 2020-21 admission cycle as part of a three-year pilot program.

Roberts cited both decisions as influential as UVA considers different options regarding testing.

“We’re having serious discussions about what is fair and what is best for students and what helps us make the most sound, thoughtful, and thorough admission decision we can,” he said.


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