While most colleges are maintaining test-optional policies for the 2022-2023 application cycle, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology declared an agenda of its own on Monday, March 28th. Applicants will be required to submit their standardized test scores once more starting in the fall of 2022, as reported by Maria Cramer and Eduardo Medina in The New York Times. As Cramer and Medina point out, this starkly contrasts the overall trend of continuing to waive testing requirements, as all Ivy-league schools and other STEM-focused schools like CalTech will maintain test-optional policies for the upcoming admissions cycle.
MIT offered a test-optional policy for the past two years to accommodate for COVID-19’s impact on testing. However, the dean of admissions and student financial services, Stu Schmill, explained in his statement announcing the reinstatement of the requirement that “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.” Further, MIT asserted “we cannot reliably predict students will do well at MIT unless we consider standardized test results alongside grades, coursework, and other factors” in their Q&A released on March 28th.
Standardized testing has been the subject of scrutiny, especially in recent years, as critics have argued that it favors the wealthier demographic. According to the NYT article, approximately 750 colleges and universities adopted test-optional policies during the pandemic in addition to the 1,075 four-year colleges and universities that had already instated test-optional policies before 2020.
Yet, even with a test-optional policy, the middle 50% score range of admitted students (25th and 75th percentiles) for the Class of 2025 remained quite high, as evidenced by the admissions statistics released by MIT. The middle 50% score range was 780 to 800 in SAT Math, 730 to 780 in SAT Reading and Writing, and 35 to 36 in ACT Math. Of the 11,342 applicants who had an SAT Math score between 750 and 780, 1,081, or 10%, were admitted, as compared to the 1% with a score between 700-740. The standardized testing system is in no way perfect, but the test-optional policy has not made much of a difference in MIT’s favoring of academically outstanding students. Exceptional achievement in testing, especially in math, will always be favored by admissions, with or without the optional policy.