UT-Austin reverts to requiring standardized test scores for admissions

Students on the South Mall at the University of Texas at Austin on Feb. 22, 2024.
Students on the South Mall at the University of Texas at Austin on Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Maria Crane/The Texas Tribune

The University of Texas at Austin will once again require applicants to submit standardized test scores, beginning with applications to enroll in the fall of 2025.

The university suspended the testing requirement in 2020 because of limited access to testing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Critics of testing requirements have said they give students from affluent families an unfair advantage because they can access test prep to improve their scores. Still, a growing number of universities are reversing their test-optional admission policies, including Brown, Yale, Dartmouth and Georgetown.

In explaining the decision to reinstate testing requirements, UT-Austin president Jay Hartzell said ACT and SAT test scores help identify how students will fare in their first semester of college and which students would benefit from extra help.

“Our experience during the test-optional period reinforced that standardized testing is a valuable tool for deciding who is admitted and making sure those students are placed in majors that are the best fit,” Hartzell said in a statement Monday.

Hartzell told the New York Times that the standardized test scores would be particularly relevant when placing students in more challenging courses of study, such as engineering and business.

Akil Bello, a senior director of advocacy and advancement at FairTest, an advocacy group that tracks testing policies at universities across the country, said he was skeptical of the university’s intent to use ACT and SAT test scores to determine the majors students are allowed to pursue.

“It doesn’t align with everything I know about the design of the test, the purpose of the test and the information that it gives,” Bello said. “To be using the SATs to determine what major you can qualify for is as valid as using performance in Mario Kart.”

UT-Austin applicants in the top 6% of their high school class are granted automatic admission every year. The test scores for these applicants, who represent about three in four students who are admitted into the university, will not play a role in their acceptance. Test scores will be a part of the review process for the remaining applicants.

UT-Austin saw a record high of about 73,000 applicants last year. About 90% or more of those applicants took a standardized exam, according to College Board data shared with UT-Austin.

The university also announced Monday that for the first time it will have an early action process that will allow applicants for the fall 2025 semester to apply by Oct. 15 to get an earlier, nonbinding decision about their application.

The Texas Tribune partners with Open Campus on higher education coverage.

Disclosure: College Board and University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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