Harvard Reinstates Standardized Tests for Admission, Beginning in 2025

Katabella Roberts
By Katabella Roberts
April 12, 2024US News
Harvard Reinstates Standardized Tests for Admission, Beginning in 2025
The Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Mass., on March 23, 2020. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Harvard University will require its applicants to submit standardized test scores for admission, beginning with students who apply to start school in fall 2025, the university has said.

The university announced the reversal of the pandemic-era policy that made the exam score requirements optional in a statement on Thursday. It is the latest school to start mandating tests again for admissions after Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced similar updates.

Officials cited research published last year by Harvard professors Raj Chetty and David J. Deming, and co-author John N. Friedman, which analyzed data from more than 400 institutions and about 3.5 million undergrads per year.

That research found that standardized tests were an “important tool to identify promising students at less-well-resourced high schools, particularly when paired with other academic credentials,” the school said.

“Standardized tests are a means for all students, regardless of their background and life experience, to provide information that is predictive of success in college and beyond,” Hopi Hoekstra, a Harvard dean, said in a statement.

“Indeed, when students have the option of not submitting their test scores, they may choose to withhold information that, when interpreted by the admissions committee in the context of the local norms of their school, could have potentially helped their application,” she continued. “In short, more information, especially such strongly predictive information, is valuable for identifying talent from across the socioeconomic range.”

Harvard previously rolled out a temporary test-optional policy in June 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of high schools and ACT/SAT testing centers, severely limiting access.

Criticism Over Standardized Testing

The school initially said it planned to maintain its test-optional policy through the class of 2030, which would have started in fall 2026.

Under the change announced at Harvard on Thursday, students applying for fall 2025 admission will be required to submit standardized test scores from the SAT or ACT exams to satisfy the testing component of the application.

However, in “exceptional cases” in which applicants are unable to access SAT or ACT testing, other eligible tests will be accepted, including Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams, the school said.

According to Harvard, the majority of students who applied to the university over the past four years have opted to submit test scores, despite the test-optional policy.

Officials acknowledged criticism of standardized testing. Campaigners argue that the approach further disadvantages low-income students who are unable to pay for additional courses to prepare for the tests, effectively allowing an elitist “meritocracy” system to continue perpetuating itself.

Harvard ‘Considers the Whole Person’

Supporters argue that standardized testing is a good way of predicting college grades and performance, including a student’s chance of success post-college.

“Critics correctly note that standardized tests are not an unbiased measure of students’ qualifications, as students from higher-income families often have greater access to test prep and other resources,” said Mr. Chetty, a professor of public economics at Harvard and director of Opportunity Insights. “But the data reveal that other measures—recommendation letters, extracurriculars, essays—are even more prone to such biases. Considering standardized test scores is likely to make the admissions process at Harvard more meritocratic while increasing socioeconomic diversity.”

Harvard officials added that test scores will be just one factor among many as its admissions committee “considers the whole person” in its decision-making process.

NTD Photo
People walk past Sayles Hall on the campus of Brown University, in Providence, R.I., on May 7, 2012. (Steven Senne/AP Photo)

“Fundamentally, we know that talent is universal, but opportunity is not. With this change, we hope to strengthen our ability to identify these promising students, and to give Harvard the opportunity to support their development as thinkers and leaders who will contribute to shaping our world,” Ms. Hoekstra said.

Last month, Brown University announced it will reinstate its standardized testing requirements for admission for students applying for the 2025-2026 academic year, following in the footsteps of a string of other Ivy League schools who have recently backtracked on the test-optional policy.

According to FairTest, some 2,000 colleges and universities across the United States will not require all recent U.S. high school graduates applying for fall 2024 admission to submit ACT/SAT results before making admissions decisions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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