During the pandemic, many universities in the United States have suspended the requirement of SAT, ACT, or equivalent tests. I work in one of them. It seems that some universities have removed such requirements permanently. My personal experience is that the removal of the test scores has very noticeable effects.

I wonder if there are measurable effects across the country. Moreover, what is replacing test scores? Obviously Caltech cannot accept 100% applicants, so what is the filtering mechanism now?

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    No, I'm a faculty member, hence the question.
    – Bilbo
    Apr 22, 2022 at 18:41
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    "Obviously CalTech cannot accept 100% of applicants". This statement is strange to me, because standardized test scores have never been the only (or even the primary) method by which applicants are filtered. GPA, writing samples, essays, extra-curriculars, community involvement...these are all filtering mechanisms and many argue they are better indicators of future student success.
    – psithurism
    Apr 22, 2022 at 18:43
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    My personal experience is that the removal of the test scores has very noticeable effect. --- It might be helpful to give more context for this assertion, since if "noticeable effect" is somewhat of a euphemism for "declining quality" (in background knowledge, in intrinsic ability/potential, in ability or desire to work hard, etc.), then the effect you're seeing might be almost entirely due to issues related to online-only learning due to COVID. Apr 22, 2022 at 18:45
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    @psithurism, Good point, certainly there are many other filtering mechanisms, but I'll be surprised if test score is not a major factor. I could be wrong, but I really cannot imagine admission officers comparing writing samples from a student scored in the 10th percentile and that from a student scored in the 90th percentile. At least in my university, test scores are used to organize applicants into groups, other factors matter within the same groups.
    – Bilbo
    Apr 22, 2022 at 18:53
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    @Bilbo You, as a random faculty member, know your student's SAT/ACT scores from their application? Apr 22, 2022 at 19:03

1 Answer 1


Actually, the filtering hasn't changed much. In the US, admissions have always been broad based, not deterministic based on a few numbers. Lots of things can be considered, including GPA, the relevant courses passed, letters of recommendation, personal statements, etc.

Basing decisions on a single number is overly simplistic.

Moreover, the standardized tests are poor measures in any case, making it easier to drop them. They measure mostly the retention of facts, rather that the possession of skill and insight.


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