University of California unanimously voted to suspend SAT or ACT test requirement

Jeff Chiu/AP
  • The University of California voted unanimously Thursday that it will gradually phase out standardised testing as an application requirement to its system of 10 schools.
  • In a proposal released Monday, the University of California President Janet Napolitano recommends suspending the requirement that undergraduate applicants take either the SAT or ACT.
  • The University of California would develop a standardised admissions test of its own, to be deployed in 2025.
  • Critics argue – and research shows – that standardised tests favour students from families wealthy enough to pay for test preparation.
  • Over 1,200 colleges and universities have dropped standardised testing requirements for fall 2021, according to the National Centre for Fair and Open Testing.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Students no longer need to take a standardised test to get into one of California’s public universities – at least until the state comes up with a standardised test of its own.

In a unanimous vote on Thursday, the University of California, which has 10 campuses, approved a motion to gradually phase out standardised testing as an application requirement to its system, with complete elimination aimed for 2025.

Standardised testing will be an optional for another year, the school board voted, and it will become “test blind” for the next two years in terms of accepting in-state applicants, The New York Times reported. Standardised tests will still be used to award scholarships, place students, and accept out-of-state students.

“These tests are extremely flawed and unfair,” Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, who sits on the school board, told The Times. “We are saying this is wrong and enough is enough.”

In a proposal released Monday, the University of California President Janet Napolitano recommended the suspension of the requirement that undergraduate applicants take either the SAT or ACT.

The UC system already suspended that requirement for all fall 2021 applicants. Under Napolitano’s plan, to be taken up by the UC Board of Regents, the requirement would be suspended all the way until 2025, after which “a new, UC-based test would be required.”

Applicants could still voluntarily submit test results, but beginning in 2023 test scores would impact course placement and scholarships, not admission. A new test, created in consultation with “K-12 educators, test experts, the California State University, and UC faculty” would be required in 2025 – but, if not ready, the state would drop standardised testing altogether.

The proposal comes after the UC Academic Senate, composed of UC faculty, voted to keep current standardised testing requirements for the next five years until an alternative is developed, the Los Angeles Times reported. Nevertheless, “The Senate is pleased that the president’s recommendations are in line with the spirit of our recommendations,” Chair Kum-Kum Bhavani told the paper.

In October 2019, a coalition of school districts and organisations representing “historically marginalised” communities sent an open letter to UC Regents demanding it immediately halt the use of “either SAT or ACT scores in order to be considered for admission to any campus.” The groups argued that the test requirement constituted “unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, disability, and wealth.”

The letter was followed by litigation alleging the same. As NBC News reported, a 2015 study found “that the lowest average SAT scores aware among students from families who made less than $US20,000 a year, while the highest were among students from families who made more than $US200,000” – a product, in part, of ability, or lack thereof, to pay for tutoring in preparation for the exam.

Over 1,200 colleges and universities have dropped standardised testing requirements for fall 2021, according to the National Centre for Fair and Open Testing. As The Washington Post reported, nearly 50 schools dropped testing requirements between September 2018 to September,” but, in the wake of COVID-19, “the pace of such decisions has rapidly increased this year.”

Neither The College Board nor ACT, Inc., the nonprofits responsible for current standardised admissions tests, immediately responded to requests for comment.

A previous version of this story has been updated with the news of the university vote.

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