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Brown University Will Reinstate Standardized Tests for Admission

Brown University will reinstate standardized testing requirements for admission, joining Yale, Dartmouth and M.I.T. in backtracking on “test optional” policies adopted during the Covid pandemic.

Brown’s decision, announced on Tuesday, will require either SAT or ACT scores and will be in effect in the upcoming admissions cycle.

In its announcement, Brown said that test results were a clear indicator of future success.

“Our analysis made clear that SAT and ACT scores are among the key indicators that help predict a student’s ability to succeed and thrive in Brown’s demanding academic environment,” the Providence, R.I., university said in a statement.

Brown also echoed concerns expressed by both Dartmouth and Yale that suspending test requirements had the unintended effect of harming prospective students from low-income families.

The committee at Brown that was charged with reviewing admissions policies was concerned that some students from less-advantaged backgrounds with lower scores had chosen not to submit scores under the test-optional policy, even when submitting them could have actually increased their chances of being admitted.

“Strong testing, interpreted in the context of a student’s background, may serve to demonstrate their ability to succeed at Brown,” the announcement said, “and the lack of scores may mean that admissions officers hesitate to admit them.”

Applications to highly selective colleges had surged during the test-optional period. Last year, Brown said it had received more than 51,000 applications for its fall 2023 class.

Not entirely.

For every school that is bringing back standardized tests, a number of institutions are going in the opposite direction, as part of a growing test-optional movement in the United States. Some 2,000 colleges and universities have said they will not require admissions examinations, according to FairTest, an anti-testing organization.

Supporters of test-optional policies argue that they level the playing field, eliminating the advantage given to high school students from affluent families who can afford test prep courses and coaches that boost their scores.

Many colleges elected to keep test-optional policies in place even as the pandemic waned. Columbia announced last year it would be test-optional, and Harvard has said that it will be test-optional through the class graduating in 2030.

The University of Michigan, one of the nation’s most selective public universities, announced in February that it would become test-optional, abandoning a “test flexible” policy that allowed the use of other tests, like Advanced Placement.

The California university system has enacted a “test-blind” policy, meaning that it will not look at scores, even if they are submitted.

Brown said that a committee analyzing admissions practices had weighed the question of legacy preferences, in which the children of alumni are given a boost, but had not yet come to a conclusion.

About 8 percent of students in Brown’s first-year class are legacies.

“The issue of admissions preferences raises complicated questions about equity and access, about merit and unearned advantage, about the tangible and intangible impact of affinity, loyalty and community — and about how to weigh compelling but competing values,” Brown’s admissions review committee said in a summary.

On one hand, the committee found, students whose parents attended Brown tended to be highly qualified, with stronger academic records. They also are more likely to accept admission offers. And legacies create a “sense of community and loyalty among graduates.”

On the other hand, an analysis suggests that admitting fewer legacy students could potentially result in modest increases in low-income and first-generation students, as well as students from historically underrepresented groups, the committee found.

Brown said it would also retain its early decision admissions program. Critics have said that such programs help students from wealthier families.

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