About That NACAC Report on the SAT

If test scores are used in admissions decisions, they will also be a part of our methodology.

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The National Association for College Admission Counseling just released its long-awaited Report of the NACAC Commission on the Use of Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admission that makes recommendations on how the SAT, ACT, and other standardized tests should be used in college admissions.

Our use of SAT and ACT test scores in the America's Best Colleges rankings is one area that the commission—made up of college admissions deans and high school counselors—weighs in on. It says:

The Commission believes that, as tests designed to provide information about individuals to colleges and universities, the SAT and ACT were never designed as measures of the quality of an institution of higher education. Accordingly, the Commission encourages U.S. News to eliminate test scores as a measure of institutional quality.

U.S. News has no plans at present to change our college rankings methodology in response to this NACAC report. Our methodology reflects the current state of college admissions, where standardized tests are still used in the vast percentage of admissions decisions and have been playing an increasingly important role over the past few years. Currently, 60 percent of colleges say that test scores are of "considerable importance" as a factor in student admissions, up from 43 percent in 1994, according to NACAC's own research. As long as standardized tests play an integral role in the college admissions process, U.S. News will use them as part of our ranking methodology .

Contrary to the commission, U.S. News believes that when combined with other indicators of academic quality, standardized test scores can be used to compare institutions. Indeed, this is what many colleges and universities do when they compare themselves with one another. We believe that the scholastic abilities of the students enrolled at one school compared with those at another are an important factor in determining the academic atmosphere on campus.

Only about 5 percent of the four-year regionally accredited colleges in the U.S. News Best Colleges universe say they don't use the SAT or ACT in admissions. U.S. News does not rank those schools. The other 95 percent of colleges say they either require the SAT or ACT for admission or say they are test optional. We have found that typically around two thirds of incoming students at test-optional schools submit standardized test scores.

The bottom line: If a meaningful percentage of colleges drop their SAT or ACT requirements for admission, then U.S. News will change our ranking model. So far, that is not happening.