Report questions SAT

A report questioning the value of the SAT exam as an indicator of academic performance in college is causing a stir in the higher-education community — a stir that may eventually reach as far as Yale.

College-admissions exams like the SAT and ACT are not effective in determining an applicant’s suitability for admission, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling. Instead, the report recommends, universities should rely more on exams that closely reflect high-school curricula, including SAT Subject Tests and Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams.

And universities, it appears, are listening. Harvard Dean of Admission and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons, who chaired the NACAC commission, told the Harvard Crimson yesterday that, based on the report’s findings, Harvard may one day move to a system in which the required SAT or ACT score were replaced by five SAT Subject Test scores.

Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said he is still reading the report and it is simply too early to speculate about the effect it may have on Yale admissions. Still, he said, the University will be studying the report’s reasoning and conclusions.

“I expect to spend time during the year ahead reviewing the commission findings, reviewing our testing requirements, holding discussions within the University and participating in discussions with colleagues at other institutions,” Brenzel wrote in an e-mail.

Fitzsimmons pointed to the misuse of test data to determine scholarship eligibility, and in the case of the U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges rankings, as a measure of the quality of an institution. Students who do not have access to test-preparation resources, the report says, are at a disadvantage.

“Many less affluent students are not well informed about the impact of testing on college options and lack knowledge of or access to critical information about preparing for and taking the tests,” the report said.

Jon Reider, the director of college counseling at the private University High School in San Francisco, said he is glad the commission addressed what he called the “fundamental failings” of the exams.

“The SAT is advertised to predict how well an applicant will perform in his or her freshman year, but who cares how you start? It is about how you finish,” he said.

Reider, a former admissions officer at Stanford University, said it is encouraging that representatives from major universities have started acknowledging that the exams in their current form benefit only the test makers and preparation companies such as Kaplan or the Princeton Review.

“It is clear the train is beginning to leave the station,” he said. “It is time for Yale and other universities to get on it and make the SAT optional.”

Over a dozen Yale students interviewed welcomed the possibility of reconsidering the mandatory nature of these exams.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Nathaniel Glasser ’11, who said the SAT merely tests how quickly students can finish, rather than their academic potential.

Natalia Emanuel ’12 said she supports the report’s recommendation that colleges use SAT Subject Tests, AP and IB exams in place of the SAT.

“The SAT [Subject Tests] actually test you on what you know, not on how well you can take the test,” she said.

But Eric Anderson ’11, a staff photographer for the News, said he supports the use of standardized tests because, for the most part, they level the playing field, especially when supplemented by other parts of the application package.

“When combined with other factors, such as grades, exams such as the SAT provide a way to judge applicants evenly,” he said.

Brenzel said no changes will take effect during this admissions cycle since the University has already received several hundred applications for the class of 2013.

The report was prepared by the NACAC Commission on the Use of Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admission and will be presented to the full Association at its annual meeting in Seattle this week.

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