Last week, the University of California system announced major changes to its standardized testing policy. The announcement generated considerable news coverage:

“University of California Will End Use of SAT and ACT in Admissions” in the New York Times

“The UC System plans to phase out the SAT and ACT—and other schools may follow suit” on CNBC

and plenty of others.

It’s worth looking at the UC announcement as it’s instructive about what test optional or test blind really means.

First, the testing policy change will occur in several phases:

  • Campuses will be test-optional for fall 2021-2022, meaning applicants may choose whether or not to submit test scores and campuses may choose whether or not to consider those test scores in evaluating applications
  • Test-blind for fall 2023-2024 for California students, meaning SAT and ACT tests will not be considered “for California public and independent high school applicants in admissions selection.”
  • Elimination of the ACT/SAT requirement for California students as of 2025, and replacing it with a required “new UC-endorsed test to measure UC-readiness.”

A few important points here:

  • While campuses are test-optional for all students for 2021-2022, the test-blind policy going into effect in fall 2023 only applies to California students. The system is working to determine what’s appropriate for out-of-state and international students, saying, “Assessing nonresident students without a standardized test presents challenges in terms of fairness and practicality. Several possible options for nonresidents that may be considered include extending the new content-based test required of California students to out-of-state applicants as well, or requiring scores from the ACT, SAT or other approved standardized test(s).”
  • The change to test-optional or test-blind is for admissions purposes only: “Test scores could still be considered for other purposes such as course placement, certain scholarships and eligibility for the statewide admissions guarantee.”
  • The UC system intends to develop its own test, one which better assesses “UC-readiness,” not to eliminate standardized testing entirely.

The press release further underscores the objective of the change: “The changes are aimed at making available a properly designed and administered test that adds value to the admissions decision process and improves educational quality and equity in California.”

I’m reminded of what Julia Surtshin of College Ahead said in our recent Facebook Live interview: consider the full package of your application before deciding whether to omit your test scores. There are plenty of instances– including the UC system and other test-optional schools– where strong test scores will still help an applicant.