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More than half of Brown students prefer test-optional policy

Photo “Standardized test exams form” by Marco Verch Professional Photographer, licensed under CC 2.0

By Catie Manning

“I would rather them not require it,” said one senior who took BOP’s poll. “What I'm wondering is what other options could be.”

Brown announced in January that it would extend its test-optional policy for all applicants in the 2022-2023 admissions cycle, in line with a number of colleges across the country and all other Ivy League schools.

The class of 2025 was the first to be admitted under a test-optional policy during the 2020-21 admissions cycle, due to the effects of COVID-19 on testing availability. The classes of 2026 and 2027 also applied or will apply with the requirement suspended due to the pandemic's ongoing impact on applicants.

According to the Brown Opinion Project's March 2022 poll, 51.62% of students do not believe that the University should require applicants to submit a standardized test score. 27.44% of respondents supported the requirement, while another 19.80% remained “unsure.” No other question elicited a higher rate of “unsure” responses save for opinions on U.S. military action against Russia.

First-year students — the only class admitted under test-optional policies so far — were most likely to oppose a testing requirement, with 63.97% of the class of 2025 against mandatory standardized testing and only 18.38% favoring a testing requirement. 33.80% of juniors expressed support for a testing requirement, making the class of 2023 the least supportive of a test-optional policy.

“I think standardized tests have a place and a time, but they shouldn’t be used as a final distinguishing judgment,” said one first-year who took BOP’s March poll. “You should look at the story overall, and if you believe that standardized tests fit within that story, it should help your application.”

“I would rather them not require it,” said one senior. “What I'm wondering is what other options could be.”

“It’s more difficult for international students,” added another senior who supported going test-optional. Brown suggests that international seniors submit a test indicating English language proficiency, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) as well as either the SAT or ACT.

Still, international and domestic students seemed to have felt the same about the requirement, with 27.59% and 27.14% of each cohort respectively opting for mandatory testing.

The class issue of standardized testing also came up for a number of students interviewed. One first-year who took the poll commented that a good test score is “not an indication of (a student) being a better candidate for a school, just the fact that they have money and better opportunities.”

Most students interviewed who did not support a requirement also did not support removing the tests altogether. A test-optional policy, most students said, struck the right balance: “I think if you study for it and if it's something you want to show you should be able to show it,” said another member of the class of 2025.

Testing “provides a consistent metric across the board,” added another member of the class of 2025 who supported a test-optional policy in the poll.

“It also enables people who are going to schools that are low-income to demonstrate their abilities outside of an environment that might limit them. There is a positive side of standardized testing… if you have lower grades but you perform well on the SAT,” they noted.

Joey Hernandez, a prep site leader for Brown SAT Prep, said that test-optional is “the direction that colleges should go.” Brown SAT Prep, according to Hernandez, is made up of undergraduates who travel to Providence and Pawtucket high schools and offer free SAT tutoring to juniors and seniors.

“Not every student in high schools across America and across the world have the same resources and same ability to practice and study for these exams,” Hernandez said. “Some students come from well-off backgrounds, so they are able to afford the SAT study books and they’re able to afford an SAT class with a really good instructor and have the time after school to study … some students don't have that same luxury.”

Still, like a number of other students interviewed, Hernandez said that a place exists for standardized testing.

“There should still be an opportunity for students in high schools to take the SAT and to submit that score and to get some sort of recognition for it… if you can really commit to taking this test and you devote a lot to it and you do well on it I think you should be able to submit that to a school.”

Note: All quoted poll-takers remain anonymous to maintain the integrity of Brown Opinion Project surveys. Brown Opinion Project conducted its March 2022 poll from March 2-4, collecting 591 total responses from Brown undergraduate students with a margin of error of 4.09% with 95% confidence.


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