UMass Amherst to Make Standardized Tests Optional for Three Years
AMHERST — Beginning with the spring 2021 term, and continuing for each spring and fall term through spring 2023, UMass Amherst will make standardized tests optional for its first-year entering applicants.
For the past several months, the university has monitored how possible, safe, and secure it will be for students to take the SAT or ACT. In recent weeks, said James Roche, vice provost for Enrollment Management, it has become obvious that the challenges to testing presented by the coronavirus pandemic will persist in the months ahead.
“UMass Amherst draws applications from throughout the world, and few, if any, states and countries currently offer testing sites that provide the access and safety that students, families, and schools have come to expect,” he said. “This is especially true for students who already encounter barriers in pursuit of a college education, including under-represented minority, first-generation, and low-income students. Given all these considerations, going test-optional is clearly the right choice.”
Historically, UMass Amherst has used a holistic review to evaluate applicants. The quantitative assessment component of that review was done using a formula that combined the applicant’s high school GPA and the best combination of test scores. Roche said the university’s research shows that, of the separate components, the high-school GPA is a stronger predictor of student performance, persistence, and success; however, it is also known that the combination of the two components provides an even stronger predictor than either the GPA or test score alone.
The university has analyzed three years of data and more than 100,000 applicant records to develop a formula for its test-optional assessment that uses the high-school GPA as the base. For applicants who either have or will submit test scores, UMass Amherst will compare the result of the formula with and without the test score included and give the applicant the highest value of the two. This test-optional approach applies to all majors. As it always has, UMass Amherst will continue to consider the rigor of students’ high-school coursework in its assessment, especially for courses that apply most directly to the applicant’s intended major.
“UMass Amherst has committed to being test-optional for the next three years,” Roche said. “As one of the country’s top 25 public research universities, we look forward to using the test-optional approach during this period to learn more about the relationship between high-school grades and standardized test scores, and to develop even better models for predicting student success in college. Our mission is to identify and recruit students who can grow and thrive at UMass Amherst, progressing to earn their degree as effectively and efficiently as possible.”