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Book Claims Negative Impact of SATs


In a revealing look at high-stakes standardized admissions tests, a new book called SAT Wars: The Case for Test-Optional Admissions, demonstrates the far-reaching and mostly negative impact of the tests on American life and calls for nothing less than a national policy change.

Edited by Wake Forest University Professor of Sociology Joseph Soares, the book presents:

  • New evidence of gender bias against women in the math section and racial biases against minorities built into the verbal section of the SAT;
  • The only institutional admissions validity study ever published by a top-tier private research university, Johns Hopkins University;
  • The only data ever published showing that test-optional and "don't ask, don't tell" test score practices get private and public universities stronger and more socially diverse students than admissions that require test scores; and
  • Further evidence that SAT and ACT scores are weak predictors of grades and that they come with inherent social disparities.

"Standardized tests allow colleges to practice social discrimination in the name of academic selectivity, when, in reality, high school grades are the best predictor of future collegiate success," said Soares. "SAT Wars provides a roadmap for rethinking admissions at a time when higher education seems lost."

The book features an authoritative combination of voices, including college presidents; provosts; deans; scholars of economics, history, and sociology; and test-industry participants. Contributors include:

  • Daniel Golden, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in The Wall Street Journal on admissions;
  • Robert J. Sternberg, the world's most-cited living authority on educational research and Provost at Oklahoma State University; and
  • Martha Allman, Dean of Admissions at Wake Forest University (, the first top-30 national university to become test-optional, publicly recognizing that years of achievement should not be negated by one Saturday morning.

"For the past three years, we have been delighted by the response from outstanding high school students who are drawn philosophically to an admissions selection process which includes a personal interview, a creative and thought-provoking application and an emphasis on intellectual curiosity and character," said Allman, who wrote a chapter on the challenges, surprises and rewards of Wake Forest's test-optional decision, which began with first-year students in the fall of 2009.

"Our student body is now more racially and socio-economically diverse than ever, and the number graduating in the top 10 percent of their high school classes has increased each year since it has become test-optional – from 65 percent of first-year students in 2008, to 83 percent in 2011."

Soares is a driving force behind the national movement to rethink college admissions and has organized national conferences and panels on the topic, including one at Wake Forest University involving admissions deans and researchers from leading institutions such as Duke University, University of Georgia, Harvard University, Howard University, University of Texas, University of Virginia and Yale University. Soares' 2007 book, The Power of Privilege, was instrumental to Wake Forest's decision to go test-optional in admissions. More information is available at

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