WSU no longer requiring SAT, ACT

Data shows GPA as better indicator for success than test scores; Board of Regents approved request last week



Spencer Tull, Pullman High School senior, studied for the SAT with a group of friends. He said finding out WSU was discontinuing the test was a relief.

MADYSEN MCLAIN, Evergreen roots editor

When COVID-19 caused the cancelation of SAT and ACT tests across the country, Spencer Tull was one of many high schoolers left wondering how it would impact his chance of getting into college.

Tull, Pullman High School senior, said he knew he wanted to attend the WSU Edward R. Murrow College of Communication because he already works for the WSU Athletics Department. He operates cameras to tape sporting events, Tull said.

“The idea of having to study and prepare for a big test like that was intimidating,” he said.

WSU Provost Elizabeth Chilton presented a proposal last week to permanently discontinue the use of SAT and ACT scores for admissions, tuition waivers and scholarship decisions at WSU. The WSU Board of Regents approved the request.

Tull said when school transitioned online, a group of his friends and he would study together so they did not have to be alone every day. They also prepared for the SAT together.

“I didn’t really know how it was going to work,” he said. “We found out that WSU, as well as most other colleges, weren’t requiring the scores for an admission requirement, so that was a big relief.”

The Washington Student Achievement Council granted all four-year universities in the state permission to waive the ACT and SAT scores in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.

Saichi Oba, WSU vice provost for enrollment management, said the conversation about discontinuing standardized testing began before COVID-19.

Groups around campus, including WSU Student Financial Services, felt confident using other measures to determine admissions and award recipients, he said. Offices can use GPA, courses taken and extracurricular involvement.

The WSU Athletics Department uses SAT and ACT scores for eligibility. Oba said the department will work with the NCAA to use other measurements to recruit students.

WSU data from 2011 to 2019 shows a student’s GPA and course rigor is a better indicator of success than test scores. Retention rates for freshmen and graduation rates increased in students with a high school GPA of 3.5 and higher as opposed to those who scored more than 1200 on the SAT, according to the Board of Regents minutes.

The standardized test industry started booming in the last 20 to 25 years because of families paying for test preparation materials and courses. This inherently created an implicit bias against those who could not afford test prep resources, Oba said.

The College Board determined in January it will not offer subject tests or the essay sections for the SAT, according to a College Board article.

“Even the College Board has admitted that students who go through test prep programs do better on those exams,” Oba said.

The 2020 College Board report showed 17 percent of test-takers used the SAT fee waiver. In addition, 8 percent of African American students and 12 percent of Hispanic students made up those scoring more than 1200 on the SAT, according to the report.

“This past year has been a roadmap for how we will look in the future, in terms of the process for admissions and financial aid,” Oba said.