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Stanford Becomes Latest School to Reinstate Test Scores Requirement

Stanford University announced Friday that it was reinstating the requirement for standardized test scores in undergraduate admissions, becoming the latest of a small but growing number of elite colleges to go back to the practice after abandoning it during the pandemic.

The change will take effect in fall 2025, and students applying to enroll in fall 2026 and beyond will need to provide SAT or ACT scores in their applications. Standardized test scores will remain optional for those applying this fall to enroll next year.

Other selective schools that in recent months have reverted to requiring those test scores include Harvard, Brown, Yale, Dartmouth, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgetown, Purdue, the California Institute of Technology and the University of Texas at Austin.

The test score requirement fell out of favor during the pandemic, as test dates got canceled during lockdown and as critics raised concerns over standardized tests fueling inequality. About 2,000 colleges around the country made test scores optional in applications, at least temporarily, after the pandemic hit.

In a statement explaining the move, Stanford officials said that a faculty committee on undergraduate admission had found that test scores were “an important predictor of academic performance at Stanford.” But they said the scores would be “one part of a holistic review” of applicants that will also consider factors like classroom achievement, backgrounds and whether a student has worked jobs or taken on family responsibilities.

Stanford’s reasoning was largely in line with that of other universities that made similar decisions. Many have cited recent research showing that test scores help predict students’ college grades, and their chances of graduation and post-college success. Grades are not as accurate a predictor, researchers say, because of issues like grade inflation that make it difficult to assess a student’s work. Studies have also shown that standardized tests can help universities find lower-income students and students of color who will thrive.

But critics of test requirements say that the exams favor students from wealthier families who can afford private tutors and test prep classes; those whose first language is English; and those who are better test-takers. Some opponents also say test score requirements lead to less diverse student bodies.

Fair Test, an anti-testing organization, argues that colleges should keep test scores optional or not consider them at all in their admissions decisions.

“What the SAT, and standardized tests generally, seem to pick up better than anything,” FairTest said in a recent report, “is whether your origins lie in the winning side of the existing birth meritocracy.”

While several schools across the nation have reinstated standardized test scores, Stanford’s rival across the bay, the University of California, Berkeley, is not likely to bring back mandatory scores soon.

Students sued the University of California system in December 2019 over its test score requirement, making similar arguments about the tests being unfair to some. U.C. regents voted in May 2020 to drop the requirement, but a judge later that year went further, saying the university system had to prohibit its campuses from considering scores at all in admissions.

The California State University system also dropped the test requirement in 2022.

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