Center for Studies in Higher Education
Not So Fast! A Second Opinion on a University of California Proposal to Endorse the New SAT
- Author(s): Geiser, Saul
- et al.
A University of California faculty committee, the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS), has recommended eliminating achievement tests and requiring only the “New SAT” for admission to the UC system. The proposal to endorse the New SAT has thus far drawn relatively little notice, as it is part of a broader and more controversial set of proposed changes in how UC identifies the top 12.5 percent of California high school graduates who are eligible for admission. Yet the testing proposal deserves much more attention in its own right since, if approved by the Regents, it would reverse a decade of UC research and policy development. In 2002 UC was among the first universities to adopt a formal policy on admissions testing. That policy strongly favored achievement tests, which measure students’ knowledge of college-preparatory subjects, over tests of general reasoning such as the SAT. UC research showed that achievement tests predicted student performance in college at least as well as reasoning tests, while having a less adverse impact on low-income and minority applicants. In response to UC, the College Board introduced several changes in the SAT in 2005, including the addition of a writing exam, intended to position the New SAT as more of an achievement test. The UC Regents provisionally approved use of the New SAT on the understanding that BOARS would conduct a careful evaluation of the extent to which the test conformed to UC’s 2002 testing policy before the New SAT was adopted on a permanent basis. That evaluation has never been completed. Moreover, a closer look at BOARS’ proposal reveals that it is based on questionable and often misleading evidence. Like the old SAT, the New SAT remains a relatively weak predictor of student success at UC and a strong deterrent to admission of low-income and underrepresented minority applicants. Achievement tests remain the better standard for UC admissions.