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SAT falls out of favor with some schools

Some schools are turning to essays and psychological tests that gauge personality traits as predictors of success in college over traditional methods like the SAT, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The tests measure traits such as perseverance, adaptability, and discipline. For instance, DePaul University accepts a series of short essays that gauge personality in lieu of traditional test scores.

Nationwide, more schools are growing skeptical of traditional measures of college aptitude. According to Fair Test, a non-profit that is opposed to traditional testing, 850 of the nation's 3,000 four-year colleges are "test optional." More than 100 of those schools have become so in the past 10 years.

Essays like those used at DePaul are subjective, but some schools are experimenting with more scientific testing. Michigan State University (MSU) recently began using a 100-question "behavioral inventory" to get a more holistic view of applicants granted deferred admission. More than 2,000 high school seniors have taken the test so far.

Critics of the new methods

Kristi Ferguson, director of the Office of Consultation and Research in Medical Education at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, argues the test is vulnerable to manipulation. "I’ve seen list-serves of medical students who have gone through the process and have leaked the questions," she says.

Others point to the strong empirical research supporting the value of tests like the SAT. The College Board notes that students who score between 600 and 890 on the SAT have only a 42% of making it to their senior year, while those who score between 2,100 and 2,400 had an 88% chance of doing so (Belkin, Wall Street Journal [subscription required], 1/8).

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