Why did the University of California stop accepting and using the ACT/SAT scores for admittance? How will they gauge student abilities for acceptance and scholarships? How will the best universities connect with the best students?

Matt Larriva
Sep 04, 2020


Why did the University of California stop accepting and using the ACT/SAT scores for admittance? How’ll they gauge student abilities for acceptance and scholarships? How will the best universities connect with the best students?

Yikes. There are a lot of very emotional and incorrect answers to this question, so I’ll try to provide some objectivity here.

First, the premise of your question is wrong. The UC system didn’t “stop accepting and using” test scores.

On May 21, 2020, the Regents of the University of California voted to phase out the SAT and ACT test over five years. The schools will endeavor to create their own admissions test, designed to eliminate the socioeconomic bias latent in the SAT and the ACT. 2022 will be the last year the schools would accept the SAT or ACT as part of an in-state student’s application. The tests, however, would continue to be used for out-of-state students, scholarship qualification, and for application to certain areas of study–likely STEM fields. See the graphic below for a detailed explanation, by year.

Then, on September 1, 2020 a judge ordered the UC system to stop considering SAT and ACT scores for admissions and scholarships.

So, now the school may have to become test-blind. The UC system will likely appeal the decision, and another update will come after the case hearing on the 29th.

Now, to your question of how will the UC system judge applicants. This will be a conundrum, and I wrote an OpEd in the LA Times about this:

What you’ll hear people say is, “well, the schools will just have to use grades and extracurriculars and recommendations! Those are less biased anyway!”

Well, let me give you an example. Student A is from a wealthy background and goes to a private high school where he has a 4.0 GPA. Student B is from a low-income background and goes to a public high school where he has a 4.0GPA. Student C is home schooled and has a 4.0GPA. Student D is an international student and has a 4.0GPA. Which one has the best grades? How do you compare an international GPA to a private high school GPA (where the student had access to much harder curriculum via APs and IB coursework) to a low-income public school GPA (where classes were crowded and advanced curriculum was not offered) to a home-schooled GPA (where, how many Bs do you think his mom gave out?).

Proponents say, “Well you compare their extracurricular activities!” Sure…but what kind of extracurricular activities do you think wealthy student A had access to versus Student B? You think that will be a level playing field?

“Okay then…compare their recommendation letters!” Right….how objective will student C’s teachers be?

Last year, UCLA had over 108,000 applicants for 15,000 spots. Most of them had GPAs above 4.0. What now?

So there’s no good answer to your question. The UC system itself doesn’t even know what to use in lieu of standardized test scores. Stay tuned.