200423 Harvard
Harvard becomes the latest Ivy League school to reinstate the requirement after making the choice optional during the pandemic. Image Credit: AFP file

Washington: Harvard University will reinstate standardised test scores for admissions requirements, following its peers in returning to the SAT or ACT after a pause caused by the pandemic.

The new policy will be for students applying for fall 2025, the school said in a statement on Thursday.

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Since the Supreme Court ruling last June that said colleges can’t use race in admissions, admissions offices have been trying to figure out the best ways to recruit students. Dartmouth, Yale and Brown have all said a test score can give admissions officers greater context about an applicant to determine if they can succeed at their schools.

Harvard becomes the latest Ivy League school to reinstate the requirement after making the choice optional during the pandemic. Dartmouth College, Yale and Brown universities announced similar changes in recent weeks, after officials cited data suggesting that SAT and ACT scores were the best predictors of students’ academic performance at their schools — and that making the tests optional could further disadvantage applicants from more challenging backgrounds.

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Standardized tests have been debated for decades, with critics saying they added a roadblock for disadvantaged students, among other concerns. When the coronavirus pandemic shut down testing sites across the country, many colleges made the tests optional, and then continued to provide flexibility as they studied the issue.

The changes are another pivot in an unusually tumultuous time for selective college admissions amid fallout from last year’s Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action, and a disastrous rollout of a new federal financial aid form.

Standardized tests are just one part of a package of information applicants send, including grades, essays, and recommendation letters. But millions of students study for, take, and retake the tests in hopes of optimizing their scores.

In announcing its decision Thursday, university officials cited research by Harvard professors Raj Chetty and David J. Deming, and co-author John N. Friedman of Brown University, who used data from hundreds of universities and more than 3 million undergraduate students per year to explore socioeconomic diversity and admissions.

In “exceptional cases” when applicants are unable to take the SAT or ACT, the school will accept certain other scores, including AP and IB tests. The policy will be formally assessed at regular intervals, school officials said.

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Hopi Hoekstra said the tests are a means for all students, regardless of their background and life experience, to provide information predictive of success in college and beyond.