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The Waning Days of Standardized Test Scores

While we state minimum SAT and ACT scores to gain admission to Cleary University, we really don’t need test scores to determine if you’ll be a successful student here. 

Some colleges and universities, Cleary included, were starting to go “test-optional” before the COVID-19 pandemic up-ended higher education. In the past year, even schools that believe test scores indicate something important about prospective students have to find another way to determine whom to admit as testing dates were canceled across the country.

Even Ivy League institutions like Cornell, Harvard, Princeton and Yale have gone “test-optional” for the graduating high school class of 2021 because, frankly, most students never had the chance to sit for either test. But even before COVID, some higher ed institutions decided to forgo test scores as a determinant for incoming students.

Why? Because test scores do not promise college success.

The human mind is too complex and multifaceted to try to measure competency with a standard test. A high test score means only that the test-taker knows well how to take the test.

There can be no “standard” for learning capabilities, emotional readiness for the rigor of college, or other bellwethers for future success.

Tests have minimal predictive value of success or competency. At Cleary, we focus on the development of the entire mind and how each student can contribute to a dynamic world of business.

Graphic of The Cleary Mind, which has nothing to do with test scores

Standardized tests are linear and do not measure the dynamics of a mind, let alone the plethora of skills needed to thrive in the modern workforce – skills like resiliency, grit, or the ability to innovate as well as social acumen, ability to thrive in a diverse and inclusive setting, ability to be persuasive, act ethically and think creatively.

How can we measure for these important traits?

It’s hard, to be sure. We need students to possess the eight attributes of The Cleary Mind, which they build once enrolled at Cleary University. Most students don’t come to campus with the tools they need to build thriving careers. If they did, why would they need a university education?

If all we needed were test scores to measure against a standard that doesn’t actually exist, college would be much easier, simpler, and have less purpose and value.

The growing argument against standardized testing as a hallmark for college admissions is that better scores come from having the economic means to purchase expensive test prep and tutoring. Students from affluent origins, then, have a better chance of scoring higher, which leads them to gain acceptance more readily in the most elite institutions. 

But success has nothing to do with elitism. It has to do with hard work, perseverance and relationships – which anyone can build, regardless of economic origins.

A better test of a student’s ability to succeed in college is their cumulative high school GPA – which requires consistent effort and attention through four years of high school. A high GPA reflects not only dedication to studying, but also a commitment to complete homework, hand it in on time, show up for class, participate in discussions and group projects, and generally be present for the learning. 

It’s likely, post-pandemic, that we are going to see more universities opt out of mandatory test score submission to gain admission. More and more campuses, Cleary included, are deciding whom to accept on the basis of their character and desire to succeed.

And we can find that in conversation with prospective students as well as from their thoughtful essays written to show a glimpse of who they are at the core – and who they have a chance of becoming.