UC Regents Vote to Drop SAT, ACT


Photo By Katelyn Newton

Student resources for college preparation. Competitive schools like UC San Diego and UCLA no longer require the SAT for admissions.

Katelyn Newton, Mirada Staff

After a two year research effort evaluating the effectiveness of standardized tests, the University of California Regents unanimously voted on May 21 to retract the SAT/ ACT requirement for California applicants until 2024.

While students in the class of 2021-2022 have the option to submit test scores if they wish, students graduating in 2023-2024 will undergo a “test-blind” policy in which scores are only used for class placement and scholarships, not admissions. 

For the first two years of “test-optional” admissions, however, students who elect to not submit SAT/ACT scores will not be negatively impacted in the admissions process. The UC system also deleted the requirement for the essay, or writing, portion of both tests entirely. 

This vote came a week after UC President Janet Napolitano voiced a desire to suspend the SAT/ ACT requirement for incoming freshmen according to a detailed long-term plan.

Napolitano’s five-year plan, released in preparation for the May 21 UC Board of Regents meeting, calls for the university to continue to make tests optional through 2022 (tests are optional for 2021 because of Covid-19 restrictions), and then suspend use of tests for California residents through 2024.

Since the regents accepted the plan, during the next five years, the university will attempt to “create a new test that better aligns with the content UC expects applicants to have learned and with UC’s values.” 

This proposal has sparked concern for some students, who fear other institutions could follow.

“In terms of college specific tests, I do not think they should be done at all,” said junior Lucy Prieto, who plans on applying to UC campuses. “There is no way that a student would be able to show their full capabilities for all of these tests when having to spread their focus, effort, and time across so many of them at once, this would be completely unfair to students and an even less accurate measure of their capabilities than an SAT/ACT.”

If UC can’t have a new test available for fall 2025 applicants, however, the UC system will eliminate its standardized testing requirement for admissions altogether.

The move to eliminate the SAT and ACT by the 10-campus system with more than 280,000 students is predicted to cause other schools to follow and shake up college admissions.

“I find it very interesting that the UC system is looking at completely dropping SAT/ACT scores as part of their application, especially when scores have been a pretty significant factor in their applications previously,” said Prieto. “I think a more holistic approach without using test scores by the UCs or any other colleges in terms of admissions would be a more fair/equitable measure.”

Despite the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on the class of 2021, the UC Board of Regents already had a study underway analyzing the benefits of standardized tests. Public Education Director of Fairtest Robert Schaeffer reported that multiple regents had been in favor of the test-optional policy long before President Napolitano’s statement.

The Standardized Testing Task Force (STTF), a 20 member team tasked with advising the University of California on whether or not to keep such tests, evaluated standardized tests and their accuracy in predicting student success at the university. The STTF released their report January 2020 and concluded standardized tests remain a valuable tool. 

Yet, the UC Board went ahead with Napolitano’s plan, as critics of the exams have long held that standardized tests disadvantage low-income and minority students. 

Schaeffer, an advocate of fair and open testing, has led Fairtest’s argument that standardized tests are not accurate representations of a student’s potential.

“Test scores are a measure of accumulated opportunity,” Schaeffer said. 

Napolitano’s proposal noted that “in 2018, 37 percent of CA resident freshman admits were from underrepresented minorities compared to 59 percent of high school graduates.” It goes on to note that  “test scores play some role (in the gap), but are not the primary barrier to admission.”

While Fairtest’s leaders would value an alternative exam that provided better insight to a student’s capabilities, Schaeffer explained he is yet to find a testing alternative that shows where students are capable of going as opposed to where they came from.

“In Fairtest’s 30 years of existence we have never seen a test that is as fair and accurate as a high school academic record,” Schaeffer said.

He argues that academic performance, course rigor, life situations, community service and extracurricular talents are much more telling than the SAT or ACT and approves of the board’s decision.

Members of the UC Board of Regents called this vote “a step in the right direction” for the University of California, as they attempt to base admissions off of their core values.