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EDUCATION REPORT - Some American Colleges Drop the SAT and ACT as Required Tests for Admission

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This is Shep O'Neal with the VOA Special English Education Report.

The United States has more than three thousand colleges and universities. Most require high school students to take an admissions test, either the SAT or the ACT. But some have reconsidered.

The activist organization FairTest opposes the requirements. It lists more than seven hundred individual schools now where testing is optional. Students can provide their results, but only if they want to. The list is on the Web site fairtest.org.

A number of the schools are related as campuses within university systems. Yet in some cases, it appears that other campuses do still require testing.

Testing critics say one reason to drop the requirement is that preparing for the tests takes away too much time from schoolwork, and life. They say the requirement places too much importance on one test and causes too much stress for students.

Admissions officers at other schools, however, say test scores are important but are only one of the things they consider.

Still, critics question just how much the tests really show about a student. They say higher scores in some cases might only show that a student's family had the money for costly test-preparation classes.

One of the first colleges to drop the requirement was Bates College in Maine in nineteen eighty-four. Over the next twenty years, it compared students who provided their test scores and those who did not. The study found that grades and graduation rates were the same.

Bates College also found an increase in the number of women, minorities and poor students who applied. The same was true of students with learning disabilities and international students.

Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts ended its requirement in two thousand one. Mount Holyoke is a small, highly rated liberal arts college for women. Recently its president, Joanne Creighton, wrote in the Los Angeles Times about the effects of making the SAT optional.

Porter Hall on the Mount Holyoke campus
Porter Hall on the Mount Holyoke campus

Like Bates, Mount Holyoke has compared student performance. Joanne Creighton says the study has found "no meaningful difference."

She says the SAT might have made sense in the nineteen twenties when it was developed. College then was only for a relatively limited group of people. But she says American students and schools are too different today for what she calls a "one-size-fits-all test."

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. Read and listen to our reports at www.unsv.com. This is Shep O'Neal.

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