Melissa Korn, Wall Street Journal, February 5, 2024
Dartmouth College will require SAT or ACT scores beginning with next year’s class of applicants, the first Ivy League school to reverse course on pandemic-era test-optional policies.
The New Hampshire school said it was making the move based on new research showing that, at Ivy League and other highly selective schools, standardized test scores help predict first-year college performance—even better than high-school grades do.
“I’ve become less convinced that [test] optional is working for us at Dartmouth,” said Lee Coffin, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid. “We’re reanimating the policy based on evidence.”
The research, by faculty from Dartmouth and Brown University and published last month by Harvard University’s Opportunity Insights research center, found that test scores predicted variations in first-year college success even among students with similar characteristics and high school grades. Dartmouth faculty also reviewed anonymized data specifically for that college, issuing a report to Coffin and the school’s president endorsing the return to testing.
More than a thousand other colleges also scrapped their test-score requirement in 2020, as testing centers were closed during the public-health crisis and students were unable to take the SAT or ACT. Cornell University was the first Ivy institution to drop its requirement, with its peers all following within two months. In addition to logistical challenges, some schools noted concerns about correlations between test scores and family income.
Bruce Sacerdote, a Dartmouth economics professor involved in that school’s testing-data review, said that under the test-optional policy, low-income applicants withheld their scores even when those results would have helped make their applications stand out.