Optional testing policies now dominate the higher edition

Admissions policies that allow applicants to submit their standardized test scores have grown steadily over the years, fueling long-standing concerns about how the tests could contribute to racial and socioeconomic disparities and the more immediate logistical challenges of the pandemic.

There’s been a recent shift in higher education: More than 800 institutions switched to voluntary testing policies between the fall 2019 and fall 2021 admissions cycles, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education. Only about 160 institutions still classify themselves as requiring test scores.

The change has become widespread enough that the Board of Education is including options for optional, blinded and mandatory tests in its dataset, the first update to that part of its admissions table since it was created seven years ago.

Which institutions have made this change and what consequences has it had? Look below.

What happened to test results at selective institutions?

To see how application rates and test scores changed from 2019 to 2021 at institutions where testing was optional, search below.

NOTE: This table includes only institutions that were not voluntary in fall 2019 and transitioned to this status in either fall 2020 or fall 2021. If institutions do not require applicants to submit test scores, they do not have to report scores to the Board of Education. In such cases, “N/A” will be displayed. The changes are considered from the fall of 2019 to the fall of 2021.


This analysis looks at more than 1,400 institutions that submitted enrollment data to the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (Ipeds) for the fall 2021 enrollment year. The data set does not include institutions with an open admission policy. Only Title IV, degree, four-year institutions that accepted more than 50 students in fall 2021 were included. For-profit institutions were excluded.

Ipeds offers universities four categories to choose from when submitting their admissions considerations: “required”, “recommended”, “considered but not required” or “neither required nor recommended”. Elective testing is defined as any facility that has not reported that test results are “required.” This includes all institutions that listed “recommended”, “considered but not required” and “neither required nor recommended” as test results.

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