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U. of Texas at Austin Will Return to Standardized Test Requirement

The University of Texas at Austin said Monday that it would again require standardized tests for admissions, becoming the latest selective university to reinstate requirements for SAT or ACT scores that were abandoned during the pandemic.

A few years ago, about 2,000 colleges across the country began to move away from requiring test scores, at least temporarily, amid concerns they helped fuel inequality. But a growing number of those schools have reversed those policies, including Brown, Yale, Dartmouth, M.I.T., Georgetown and Purdue, with several announcing the changes in recent months.

U.T. Austin, which admits a cross-section of high-achieving Texas students under a plan designed to increase opportunity in the state, cited a slightly different reason than the other schools in returning to test requirements. Without requiring test scores, officials said, they were hampered in placing the admitted students in programs they would be most suited for and in determining which ones needed extra help. After making test scores optional the past few years, the university will now require applicants to submit either SAT or ACT scores beginning Aug. 1, with applications for fall 2025 admissions.

In an interview, Jay Hartzell, the U.T. president, said that the decision followed an analysis of students who did not submit scores. “We looked at our students and found that, in many ways, they weren’t faring as well,” Dr. Hartzell said.

Those against testing requirements have long said that standardized tests are unfair because many students from affluent families use tutors and coaches to bolster their scores. But recent data has raised questions about the contention. In reinstating test requirements, some universities have said that making scores optional had the unintended effect of harming prospective students from low-income families.

Brown, for example, said that some students from less-advantaged backgrounds had chosen not to submit scores under the test-optional policy, even when submitting them could have actually increased their chances of being admitted.

But U.T. Austin operates under a race-neutral admissions rule adopted more than two decades ago to allow a broader group of students to attend, automatically admitting those in Texas who graduated in the top 6 percent of their high school classes.

Among the students from Texas admitted to the university, 75 percent are regarded as “automatic admits.” Other Texas students, as well as out-of-state students, are evaluated through a “holistic” admissions process that includes standardized test scores. In the admissions process for last year’s entering class, 42 percent of students opted to submit their test scores.

Miguel Wasielewski, the university’s vice provost of admissions, said that many of those students have 4.0 grade point averages. “There’s just not a lot of variation there,” he said, adding that the test scores provide more granular information that helps determine placement.

At U.T. Austin, students are asked to rank their choices among three programs of study. Test scores help the university place those students in the major where it thinks they can succeed and identify students who need more support, part of an effort to boost graduation rates. The university’s four-year graduation rate climbed to 74.5 percent in 2023, up from 52 percent in 2013.

The scores are particularly important in determining which students will do well in the university’s more rigorous programs, such as engineering and business, Dr. Hartzell said.

According to the university’s figures on its current first-year class, a group of 9,217 students admitted last fall, students who submitted test scores were 55 percent less likely to have a first semester G.P.A. below 2.0, the university said.

Those who submitted test scores had higher G.P.A.s — an average of .86 grade points higher — in the fall semester, according to the university, which said the data was controlled for factors such as high school grades and class rank.

Dr. Hartzell said the university had consulted with the College Board, which runs the SAT, and found that nearly 90 percent of the students who apply to U.T. Austin have taken either the SAT or the ACT.

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