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Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

February 19, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Grades predict college success more than test scores, study says

Michael Osbun / Op Art

Michael Osbun / Op Art

When it comes to success in college, a  new study again raises questions about whether college-entrance exams such as the SAT predict how well students will do.

The study’s authors examined the records of 123,000 students at 33 colleges that don’t require students to submit test scores when they apply for admission.  They compared the 70 percent of students who chose to submit their scores to the 30 percent who did not, and found no significant differences in the college grade-point averages or graduation rates between the two groups.

Students’ high-school grades were much better predictors of performance, the study’s authors said.

The report was welcome news for those who support test-optional policies, including Washington State University in Pullman, which says it was one of the largest test-optional public universities in the study.

In a prepared release, John Fraire, WSU’s vice president for student affairs and enrollment, said that some students who score low on college-entrance  tests may get discouraged and not apply to college even if they have great potential for success.

But the study is unlikely to end the debate over the value of test scores in admissions.

In a report on NPR, an official of the College Board, which administers the SAT test, pointed to other research that concluded that grades and test scores together are a better predictor of college success than either alone.  The College Board sponsored that study.

William Hiss, the principal investigator of the latest report, is someone who has supported test-optional policies for years.  Hiss is the former dean of admissions at Bates College in Maine which, in 1984, became one of the first institutions to make test scores optional for applicants.

Hiss and Valerie Frank, the study’s other author and a former assistant admissions dean at Bates,  wrote that they hope their work will encourage more colleges to alter their admissions policies.  They also hope it will lead to more research to test what they’ve found.

They wrote that their research was funded by a private foundation, but do not name it.

Comments | Topics: college admissions, college-entrance exams, higher ed

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