Brown University Will Reinstate Standardized Tests for Admission


Brown University has decided to reinstate standardized testing requirements for admission, following the lead of Yale, Dartmouth, and M.I.T. in reversing their “test optional” policies adopted during the Covid pandemic.

Brown’s decision, announced on Tuesday, will necessitate either SAT or ACT scores and will be effective in the upcoming admissions cycle.

Why the Change? Brown stated that test results serve as a reliable predictor of future success.

“Our analysis revealed that SAT and ACT scores are important indicators of a student’s ability to thrive and succeed in Brown’s rigorous academic environment,” the Providence, R.I., university said in a statement.

Brown also expressed concerns, similar to Dartmouth and Yale, that suspending test requirements adversely impacted prospective students from low-income backgrounds.

The admissions committee at Brown, tasked with reviewing admissions policies, worried that some students from less advantaged backgrounds with lower scores opted not to submit scores under the test-optional policy, even though doing so could have improved their chances of admission.

“Strong test scores, considered in the context of a student’s background, may demonstrate their potential to excel at Brown,” the announcement stated, “and the absence of scores may lead admissions officers to hesitate in admitting them.”

Applications to highly selective colleges surged during the test-optional period. Last year, Brown received over 51,000 applications for its fall 2023 class.

Is This a Growing Trend? Not entirely.

While some schools are reintroducing standardized tests, many others are moving in the opposite direction, as part of a growing test-optional movement in the United States. Around 2,000 colleges and universities have declared they will not require admissions exams, according to FairTest, an anti-testing organization.

Advocates of test-optional policies argue that they level the playing field by eliminating the advantage given to students from affluent families who can afford test preparation courses and tutors that boost their scores.

Despite the waning pandemic, many colleges have chosen to maintain test-optional policies. Columbia announced last year it would remain test-optional, and Harvard intends to do so until the class graduating in 2030.

The University of Michigan, one of the nation’s most selective public universities, announced in February that it would become test-optional, abandoning a “test flexible” policy that allowed the use of other tests, such as Advanced Placement.

The California university system has implemented a “test-blind” policy, meaning it will not consider scores, even if submitted.

What About Other Admissions Practices? Brown mentioned that a committee analyzing admissions practices had considered the issue of legacy preferences, where alumni children receive a boost, but had not yet reached a conclusion.

About 8 percent of students in Brown’s first-year class are legacies.

“The matter of admissions preferences raises complex questions about fairness and access, about merit and unearned advantage, about the tangible and intangible impact of affinity, loyalty, and community — and about how to balance compelling yet competing values,” Brown’s admissions review committee stated in a summary.

On one hand, the committee found that students whose parents attended Brown tended to be highly qualified, with stronger academic records. They also are more likely to accept admission offers. Additionally, legacies foster a “sense of community and loyalty among graduates.”

On the other hand, an analysis suggests that admitting fewer legacy students could potentially result in modest increases in low-income and first-generation students, as well as students from historically underrepresented groups, the committee found.

Brown also stated it would retain its early decision admissions program, although critics argue such programs benefit students from wealthier families.


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