UC Berkeley plans pilot study of test-blind admissions

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UC Berkeley is planning a study next year to measure the effects of test-blind admissions on academic performance.

During a meeting May 21, the UC Board of Regents unanimously voted to end the use of the SAT and ACT in the admissions process for in-state applicants by 2025, and discussed the possibility of replacing them with a test owned by the UC system. At the meeting, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ also announced that UC Berkeley is planning a pilot study to measure the academic success of students admitted on a test-blind basis throughout their undergraduate careers.

“Because of COVID-19, next year we have an ideal year for experimentation,” Christ said at the meeting. “The SAT/ACT will be an even more biased instrument, reflecting differences between those with and without access to the internet, environments more and less conducive to learning and varying access to supportive resources.”

College Board and the ACT were contacted for comment but did not respond as of press time.

According to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore, SAT and ACT scores will not be considered for any California applicants next year, and the pilot study will track the academic performance of this cohort of students.

A previous study conducted in 2014 found that, in schools with optional standardized testing in admissions, those who submit test results and those who do not show no significant differences in GPA or graduation rates, according to Christ. She added that while standardized test scores serve as a good predictor of freshman GPA, overall high school GPA is a better predictor of overall undergraduate GPA and graduation rates.

Although timely graduation has been discussed as a measure of success, UC Student Association, or UCSA, Vice President of External Affairs Kamron Williams said he also hopes that schools examine student backgrounds and assess the various factors that can contribute to a student’s ability to graduate on time.

“Given that submitting the SAT/ACT will be optional within the next two years, it is important that those who do not choose to submit their scores will not be penalized in the process,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Derek Imai in an email. “I hope that this optional requirement of the tests does not lead to more biases, and hope that future advocacy will lead to the elimination of the requirement.”

Williams said he believes reexamination of the college admissions process is overdue, commenting that many students he has spoken to are also excited about the test-blind study and what it could mean for the future of admissions.

Williams noted that the UCSA and its Council of Presidents worked to get high school seniors to participate in public comment to the Board of Regents and that hearing those testimonies allowed the regents to make a “more informed” decision.

“This is just a step forward in the right direction to ensure that our admissions system is really moving towards a more equitable framework,” Williams said. “Hopefully, the five-year plan will demonstrate that there does not need to be a UC-owned test at all, but that all institutions around the world will take the lead from the UC and just do away with the SAT and ACT.”

Contact Alexandra Feldman and Catherine Hsu at [email protected].