The Test-Optional Movement at America’s Selective Liberal Arts Colleges: A Boon for Equity or Something Else?


Published online first in:
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
June 12, 2014

Andrew S. Belasco, University of Georgia and College Transitions LLC
Kelly O. Rosinger, University of Georgia
James C. Hearn, University of Georgia


The test-optional movement in the United States emerged largely in response to criticism of standardized admissions tests as inadequate and potentially biased measures of postsecondary promise. Although anecdotal reports suggest that test-optional policies have improved campus diversity, empirical research has not yet confirmed this claim. Consequently, this study employs quasi-experimental techniques to assess the relationship between test-optional policy implementation and subsequent growth in the proportion of low-income and minority students enrolling at adopting liberal arts colleges. It also examines whether test-optional policies increase institutional standing through greater application numbers and higher reported Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores. Results show that, on average, test-optional policies enhance the perceived selectivity, rather than the diversity, of participating institutions.

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