December 29, 2023

Akil Bello: Test Optional is Real

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At FairTest, testing guru Akil Bello digs into the issue of test optional college admissions. Is it real, or just a PR stunt? Can your child really get into college without a magical SAT or ACT score?

A key question in examining the impact of test optional policies is how many students are actually ending up in college having not submitted scores. We’ve endeavored to answer that question by looking at the data colleges have submitted to the federal government (for college data nerds – IPEDs).

There are 6,500+ institutions that the federal government considers colleges, but for our purposes we only downloaded information on U. S. institutions that have first-time full-time students, award at least a bachelor’s degree (so this excludes many great community colleges), have an enrollment of more than 100 students, accepted at least 1 student in the last reporting cycle, and are not entirely online. Because of these parameters we ended up with data for 2,156 colleges (FYI this number varies a little year to year but this is typically the pool of colleges that FairTest uses as the universe of “colleges”).

Things have been changing steadily since 2018.

Since 2018 the percent of enrolled students submitting scores has been dropping everywhere. At the vast majority of colleges in 2018 all students submitted the ACT, the SAT, or both. In 2022 at less than 10% of colleges did all enrolled students submit scores. At about half of colleges in 2022 less than half of all enrolled students submitted any test score at all.

% of SAT + ACT scores submitted by enrolled students Number of institutions in 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018
100% and above 66 69 627 872 868
75 – 99% 170 211 357 291 305
50 – 74% 294 282 93 49 53
25 – 49% 319 305 25 18 15
0 – 24% 737 144 9 5 7


Read the full post for more details and data.

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