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UC now Test Blind: UPDATE

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

UPDATE: Upon appeal by the UC, the court has lifted the injunction. This leads to a mix of test-blind and test optional UCs. UC Berkeley, Irvine and Santa Cruz have all adopted test blind policies The rest of the UCs remain test optional, meaning they will look at test scores not for admissions, but for scholarships, merit, or course placement

Original article:

On September 1, 2020, a court issued an injunction that requires all UC schools to stop using the SAT or ACT in the admissions process and for scholarship decisions. Los Angeles Times 9/1/2020

What does this mean?

In short, standardized tests cannot be used in UC admissions decisions. (for now) (UC Application period: Nov. 1-30, 2020)


In May, 2020, the University of California ("UC") system announced that the entire system would:

  1. Go test optional for Freshmen applying for Fall 2021 and 2022

  2. Become "test-blind" for Fall 2023-2024,

  3. Eliminate all SAT and ACT usage entirely by 2025

This meant that during the next application period for current high school seniors that each campus had the option to use SAT or ACT scores if the student submitted them for admissions, scholarships, or course placement decisions.

Subsequently, the UC campuses made their own decisions with UC Berkeley, Irvine, and Santa Cruz becoming "test-blind" dropping the SAT/ACT scores completely, while UCLA, UC Davis, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Merced and Riverside were test optional where students could "choose" whether or not to include their test scores. They could still be used to award scholarships, admissions, or course placement.

These scattered decisions caused a lot of turmoil in the college counseling community and among students. Faced with tests being cancelled sometimes on test day, allegations of inadequate Covid-19 protections during tests, and registration problems neither students nor counselors knew what to do. The consensus among counselors was that students who test well (1450+ SAT/30+ ACT) should take the tests, if it was possible to do so safely. For all other students, the thought was don't bother with testing, let your transcript, activities, talents, and essays show who the student is.

The Lawsuit Public Counsel, a pro bono law firm, filed suit on behalf of students who argued that the standardized tests should not be used to indicate a student's college readiness nor ability to succeed at college. There has been a long conversation about standardized testing and numerous findings that test scores tend to favor only some students. The tests themselves and the ability to pay for test preparation tutoring tended to disadvantage students with disabilities, students of color, and those from low-income families.

In its May announcement, the UC Board of Regents stated: " the tests were unacceptably biased based on race, income and parent education level and did not provide useful information about how students would fare in college," which was the basis for phasing out the tests entirely by 2025 LA Times, 9/2020

In particular, the lawsuit stated that students with disabilities have been unable to take the tests and that the appropriate accommodations the students are entitled to were not available.

All students have been affected by the cancellation of tests, closing of test sites, and problems with registration. The stress level and uncertainty have skyrocketed. For students with disabilities the effect has become almost impossible to overcome.

In the court case, the UC Regents claimed that absence of a test score would not be held against any applicant and that admissions officers would be trained to ignore them. However, they conceded that test results could help an applicant's chances of admissions. The attorney claimed that lack of test scores would never "hurt" an applicant, but were considered an "additional benefit."

The Alameda County Court found that the test scores were treated as a "plus factor" which gives test submitters a "second opportunity for admissions consideration." Alameda Court Injunction The judge found that disabled students' inability to take the tests meant that they could not take advantage of the same benefits as non-disabled students. They would not have that "plus factor" or "second look." Therefore, the court stopped the UC from using SAT/ACT test results.

What Now?

UC applications for the 2021-2022 academic year open on Nov. 1 and must be submitted by midnight Nov. 30, 2020.

This injunction was created by a California superior court and could be appealed. There is no indication whether the UC will appeal the injunction. (see update, above)

The usage and importance of the ACT and SAT has been declining for a number of years. In September, 2020, there are over 1,550 colleges and universities that have gone either test blind or test-optional for this application season. They make up over 60% of US colleges and Universities. Granted many colleges are doing this in response to the Covid-19 related disruptions. Some colleges are studying the effects to see how it impacts the types of students admitted to their schools and how well the students do in their classes.

What does this mean for students and families?

If students are planning on applying to the UC system the tests will not be used (unless the injunction is over-ruled). Students planning on applying to the UC as well as private colleges should consult the college website to find out the testing situation. In April, the California State Universities ("CSU") suspended use of the test scores for the 2021 application year. Ed Source.

Students should look at their list of colleges and their own test or practice test performance. My advice is that only students who have mastered the tests and do very well on them should consider taking the tests at all this year. If it is impossible to register or take the tests by the December dates, realize that you have a lot of company and that this is a circumstance that the colleges know about and will not penalize you for.

To everyone, good luck. You will get through this. If you choose well, you can find the right college for you.

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