MIT loves SAT: Elite school reinstates standardized tests for admission

Bucking a trend among elite schools, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced this week that it would again require prospective students to take the SAT or ACT — reversing a change that made the tests optional during the pandemic.

The requirement applies to applicants looking to enter the Cambridge, Massachusetts, university for the 2023-24 school year and beyond.

“Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT,” Dean of Admissions Stu Schmill wrote in a blog post Monday. “We believe a requirement is more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy.”

Mr. Schmill argued that the university’s research suggests that standardized test scores help predict student success in dealing with the school’s rigorous math curriculum.

“The substance and pace of these courses are both very demanding, and they culminate in long, challenging final exams that students must pass to proceed with their education,” he wrote. “There is no path through MIT that does not rest on a rigorous foundation in mathematics, and we need to be sure our students are ready for that as soon as they arrive.”

MIT was one of many universities that did away with standardized test requirements during the pandemic, including the entire Ivy League and the University of California school system. Many of those schools have chosen to keep the tests optional as COVID-19 restrictions are gradually being lifted.

MIT’s Cambridge neighbor Harvard University announced in December that it would be test-optional for at least the next four years. The University of California system,  the nation’s largest four-year college system, voted to drop test requirements indefinitely earlier this month.

Critics have long said the standardized tests favor students from wealthy families. But ACT, the nonprofit that runs the test of the same name, disagrees.

“Eliminating standardized testing requirements would, in practice, increase the very inequities that colleges and universities seek to fix,” ACT writes on its website. “Standardized testing provides critical data on underserved groups that help identify achievement gaps, target areas for growth and increase college readiness. School administrators cannot fix what they do not see. Standardized testing provides a valuable window into student outcomes.” 

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.