Test-blind Admissions: The Uncertain Future of University Admissions Tests

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In this article, I look at why universities are increasingly changing to test-blind admissions, and dropping standardized test requirements. I dig into why this has happened and most importantly the difference it makes for you and your application.

Yes, you read it correctly. Test-blind means that whatever your standardized test score is, it will have no relevance to your university application.

So, what happened? And why are standardized tests no longer important for all U.S universities?

In Fall 2021, the University of California, with branches in LA and Berkeley, dropped standardized admissions tests for undergrad programs. The pandemic caused many universities to do this, leading to the “test-blind” trend.

The pandemic saw many universities, including the world’s leading ones, temporarily drop the standardized tests for test-blind admissions.

Here, we explore the pros and cons of this change for international school students, and the impact it will have on US university applications.

There Are Two Justifications For Test-blind Admissions

Camp A dropped them temporarily due to logistical issues, and Camp B dropped them permanently due to their limited academic insights and perceived negative sociopolitical impact.

The test-blind trend is encouraging for applicants who can present themselves in their best light without meeting a general reasoning standard. Camp B universities’ decision to drop admissions tests altogether provides a great opportunity for applicants in the US and Europe.

The growing trend of universities falling into Camp B is encouraging for all applicants. As it provides them with the opportunity to present themselves in the best possible light.

For a free 30 min consultation with Daniele, get in touch with us at TutorsPlus today.

Dr Daniele Labriola

The Pros Of Test-Blind Admissions
This means applicants can argue their case by pointing to their academic and extracurricular achievements.  So, they can highlight experiences that are most appropriate to their intended course of study. No longer does an applicant need to meet a general reasoning standard to show their suitability for their chosen course.
For example, the performative arts applicant can now try out for parts she might have had the time for had she been focusing on SATs. Without the anxiety of sitting the ACT multiple times, the aspiring engineer could get back to realising that robot from a blueprint she filed away months ago. Untroubled by standardised testing demands, the budding philosopher can sign up for that Coursera course on Ancient Greek ethics.
For many students who are either not naturally suited for standardised testing, or else pursue a discipline which requires a lot of time away from the classroom, the test-free route serves as an ideal opportunity to further refine and promote their passions.
Simply put, the test-blind admissions route encourages the student to show an admissions officer just how much she really loves the main thing she intends to carry on with at university. In doing so, competency in her passion and, more broadly, her academic readiness for university are revealed.
An added benefit is the time and finances that applicants save preparing for exams like the SAT or ACT. This translates into dozens of hours and perhaps hundreds of pounds/dollars/euros reclaimed.
Not Every Student Is Happy About It!
Of course, not every student will be pleased with universities moving to test-optional or test-blind admissions. There are, after all, many students who excel at test taking.
For them, applying to university without being able to highlight their test-taking abilities via an SAT/ACT might feel like a handicap. Indeed, they may find it rather paradoxical; in a move which was meant to level the playing field for every applicant, the removal of standard testing ostensibly weakens the profile of many an excellent student. ‘Ostensibly’ is the key word here. The new wave of test-free and test-optional admissions believes that to presume standardised testing is a principle, if not chief determinant of a student’s academic readiness for university is contextual at best, misguided at worst.
The excellent test taker should already have plenty of opportunities in the classroom to highlight their ability in test-taking. But that is by no means the central achievement which an admissions team is looking for.  The excellent test-taker, who sees her future as either a medical doctor, lawyer, mathematician, etc., has opportunities, similar to those of the actor, engineer, and philosopher above, to demonstrate her potential beyond test scores.
Online classes, summer schools, in-school societies, local, state and national competitions (olympiads) etc. should be just as easily at her disposal.
Once she realizes that she too can show her passion and competency in a discipline beyond the pages of a standardised test, she will find herself on the same level playing field as her peers; viz., by showing in various ways her readiness for a university courses which a standardised exam could never do.
Some Tests Are Here To Stay

Select admissions tests, especially those in the UK. Such as the Oxbridge entrance exams and those for specialist courses like Law or Medicine, are here to stay.

But the storm among educators concerning the questionable value of admissions testing will surely be felt in Europe too.

Cambridge Assessments Admissions Testing decided to discontinue its key admissions tests. In areas such as the Natural Sciences, Maths, and Medicine they were stopped for “affordability” issues. It might suggest a serious reevaluation of the use of standardized testing in Europe is in the cards.

Some select admissions tests like Oxbridge or Law/Medicine exams will stay. However, Cambridge Assessments Admissions Testing’s decision to discontinue key admissions tests may suggest a reevaluation of standardized testing in Europe.

With so many universities dropping tests, will hesitant applicants take advantage of the opportunity to apply for their desired programs?

For a free 30 min consultation with Daniele on how you can improve your applications to U.S universitites, get in touch with us at TutorsPlus today.

Dr Daniele Labriola
University Applications Advisor

Daniele, BA, UC Berkeley, MLitt & PhD, St Andrews University, has dedicated over 10 years to assisting families and schools, on how best to prepare students for the top tier of higher education.

Dr Labriola’s years in Education have taken him across North America, Europe, and Asia, advising and lecturing on higher education. He has published academic articles, as well as contributed essays on university preparation and application, for various media, including newspapers, journals and government-sponsored education organizations such as the Fulbright Commission.

Here is some additional information on references for UCAS.

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