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UC Regents decide to end standardized testing for admissions

The SAT and ACT tests will not be replaced with another standardized test in the University of California admissions process. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Edmund Tuck

Dec. 4, 2021 5:09 p.m.

The University of California Board of Regents ruled that the UC system will not use any standardized tests in the application process for the foreseeable future during its November meeting.

The regents met from Nov. 16 to Nov. 18 for their bimonthly meeting and concluded that there is not currently an assessment they feel comfortable including in UC admissions.

The decision comes after years of discussion among the regents over standardized tests like the SAT and ACT in the freshman application process. During the meeting, they also rejected alternative options meant to replace the standardized tests such as the Smarter Balanced assessment, a standardized test that middle and high school students in California take.

UC President Michael Drake said during the meeting he agreed with the conclusion that the assessment was not a feasible replacement by the Smarter Balanced study group, which was formed in April to test the fairness of a new assessment.

“Repurposing the test would likely come with the same equity costs of the SAT and ACT,” Drake said.

Li Cai, an education and psychology professor and the director of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, said standardized tests continue to not be considered at all in undergraduate applications after the regents’ most recent discussion.

“The University of California basically said that we’re going to be test blind, which means that we’re really not going to look at it and for any decisions that we’re going to make,” Cai said.

Alexis Zaragoza, the UC student regent, said she is hopeful this change will open campuses to students with diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic circumstances.

“Now it’s more up to our schools to figure out capacity … to just ensure that we can bring all these brilliant students in,” Zaragoza said.

In 2020, the UC regents made the previous standardized test requirement optional because of a California court ruling that required the UC remain test blind. As a result, the UC system got a record number of 249,855 applications in 2021, a 16.1% increase from the previous year, according to a UC press release.

Angelina Quint, a third-year labor studies and sociology student and the USAC Academic Affairs commissioner, added that a student who does poorly on a standardized test is not necessarily less intelligent or capable than their peers.

Kriti Beswal, a first-year psychology student, said that standardized tests are not a real reflection of students’ capability because the stress of taking tests that impact college admission can negatively influence a student’s performance.

“There have been evidence collected at UCLA and also outside of UCLA that standardized tests are not reliable predictors of a student’s success in college as opposed to other measurements like GPA or grades,” Quint said.

While some UC community members said they are optimistic about a test blind UC system, they also expressed worries about the potential changes that come along with it.

Cai said the increase in applications may be more attributed to the increase in the status and national ranking of the UC institutions rather than the change in test requirements.

He also said that the increased number of applicants to UCLA may be outpacing the number of students the university can feasibly hold.

“UCLA will at some point dip into the single digits in terms of actual admissions rate, and at a point, we will have potentially some difficulty in meeting our goals of diversity,” Cai said.

Beswal said there are some useful aspects to standardized tests, such as the writing requirements for UCLA being fulfilled with high standardized test scores.

A test blind approach will make the admissions process significantly different for some of the UC schools, Zaragoza said.

She said that schools like UCLA and UC Berkeley will have no problem adjusting to this change because of their existing holistic approaches. However, she added that other UC campuses, such as UC Riverside, could face admissions problems in the upcoming years. UCR has a fixed weight method of reading applications, meaning if students do not meet a minimum standard, their application is not considered, according to a UC report on the comprehensive review processes and methods.

On Sept. 29, the Academic Senate published a report describing how the possible new Smarter Balanced test mirrors the SAT and ACT in the learning inequities the tests create.

Zaragoza said she thinks that the refusal of the Smarter Balanced assessment at the Nov. 18 meeting was the last chance of the SAT and ACT being replaced and a return to a test requirement. She also added that it would be difficult to go from test-free back to an application with a test requirement.

While past research has shown potential issues with standardized tests, there are also other problems with the application process that stem from socioeconomic gaps, Cai said.

“Let’s not forget that these other issues also exist,” Cai said. “High school GPA inflation is worse in more affluent schools. … Are we inadvertently benefiting those kids?”

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Edmund Tuck
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