Cal Tech drops SAT subject test requirement

Not only are they not required, but won’t be considered in the application process at all.

Cal Tech will also allow self-reporting of SAT/ACT scores…only those who matriculate will need to send their official score(s).

I thought this was interesting:

Sounds like they feel that too many quality students are not applying because of the perceived barriers of admissions. Also “seeking students who will approach the Institute’s core curriculum with as much enthusiasm and interest as they do classes in their specific major” makes me wonder if they want a little less focus on math.

Does MIT follow?

I also appreciate that they said they won’t even consider these as part of the admission process…so student/parents/counselors won’t be left with wondering if they should still send them or not.

Yes, will be interesting if MIT (and Harvey Mudd!) follow.

This news, plus IU announcing they will be test optional for 2021/22 has made it a busy few days wrt testing!

Sounds like end of merit based admission Caltech is known for.

So many applicants get 800s - it doesn’t help distinguish among them.

But it helps distinguish between 800 and less than 700. Rigor of course work differs between school and regions. SAT II is much better tool to compare.

Another reason for this change might be to boost applications and thereby selectivity. Caltech has been falling in US News ranking last 10 years.

So CalTech has decided to go away from its fundamental values?

Too many Asian applicants/students making the school less “interesting” to wider range of students, I would venture to guess.

Last I looked, roughly half of top-30 colleges currently require/recommend subject tests. Many top colleges changed from “recommended,” long believed to mean required if you can afford it, to actually “optional.” Perhaps fewer applicants are taking them.

Caltech’s clear policy, “these sections will not be considered in the application review process,” is appreciated, compared to vague and ambiguous language like “encouraged but not required” or “they are recommended but you will not be disadvantaged without them.”

Seems like diversifying the applicants and therefore the make-up of a given class is a primary goal. Don’t think their fundamental values have really changed…seems like rigor and grades will still rule.

Based on a quote from the press release, it doesn’t seem CalTech leadership agrees with that…

I don’t know if the number of subject tests taken is decreasing, I have only found 3 year data (2017-19) on CollegeBoard’s site. That lack of transparency by CollegeBoard is annoying.

I hope CalTech’s new policy and clear communication leads to more schools eliminating subject tests from being considered at all. It’s interesting to me that CalTech took the opportunity to seemingly disparage the subject tests by saying the material isn’t in line with their STEM curriculum…something must be behind that because they could have just left the press release to focus on the goal of increasing access (and diversity).

From a quick glance at the stats of those accepted/waitlisted at Caltech, it seems SAT and SAT subject test scores are not useful. Successful applicants are doing well on AIME or other academic competitions which have a much higher ceiling.

I am not sure how dropping the SAT will increase diversity but I can certainly see the reason behind dropping the SAT etc.

SAT Subject tests haven’t been that useful for schools like Caltech or MIT, where so many applicants score at or near 800. The tests are just too easy for most applicants to these schools and the scores can’t differentiate among them. These schools have been using primarily other metrics to measure their applicants for their competence in math and sciences. MIT will likely drop that requirement too.

Whoa! @makemesmart. Caltech’s demographic is around 43% Asian, I think…wonder how many people decline to apply to schools that are 43% white because SOOO many whites make the school less interesting. Ouch (says the mother of an adopted Asian child who is getting worried). Not that my child will be applying to Caltech or anything like it…but still. Sad to think she will make a school a less desirable place for others.

let’s not get the thread closed with posts regarding race, please.

The question we need to ask is with such a difficult curriculum, why is Caltech trying to make it easier to apply?

This will invite less hardened students to either get denied in or in the case one slips through the cracks, in a situation the person can not succeed.

Sorry, I was lurking and had a visceral reaction based on my fears for my D. Ducking out now.

I will say though, I have read the race thread from time to time and hoped to join it, but it’s far too erudite for us “everyday” parents with questions, concerns or worries about our non-white kids . One must practically have written a thesis on the civil rights movement, or be able to provide statistical evidence for one’s views on that thread (and be prepared to debate fiercely). And if you simply want to break in with a personal question you feel you’d be crashing the party reserved for more learned folks. There’s really no place there for discussions of subjective or anecdotal experiences. It seems that EVERYTHING else about the college experience can be expressed and discussed ad nauseum on CC except the elephant in the room that I live with every day.

I understand @inthegarden. You should jump in to that other thread…everyone is welcome.

Caltech is one institution where academic qualification is paramount. Academic qualification and test scores aren’t equivalent, however. The school has always look beyond test scores to ascertain its applicants’ academic qualification. SAT subject tests happen to be the least useful of all the academic measures. My S was a successful applicant a couple of years ago and he scored 800s on all three subject tests he took in a single sitting. I’m not sure that helped him or not, but I very much doubt it as there were way too many applicants with perfect scores in those subject tests.

Besides these subject test scores being less than useful for a school like Caltech, SAT tests aren’t as widely available as regular SAT tests in many parts of the world. Requiring these tests do create hardships for some students.

The Math2 Subject Test covers through Pre-Calculus. My D got an 800 in 9th grade. Science Subject Tests cover material in a first year HS course - I suspect she’ll get a Chem 800 in 10th grade, as she currently is on practice tests. She’s probably typical for a Caltech applicant.

I would agree that showing excellence in Pre-Calc and first year HS science via Subject Tests probably doesn’t say much about readiness for Caltech’s curriculum.

If you’re talking about barriers that are created by the SAT subject tests, here’s an example. We live in a rural area. SAT subject tests are only offered in one room in one high school locally, and then another school an hour away. If you don’t get into one of those rooms, then the closest place to take it is an hour and forty-five minutes, in another state. Additionally, the local one is only offered a few times a year. For the few wealthy parents in the area, perhaps they could get a hotel room nearby, but for everyone else it would require waking up at around 4 AM to take the test in time. Already an unequal start for rural kids, to say the least.

My D20 wanted to take one SAT subject test last fall, but decided she didn’t want to drive an hour and forty-five minutes each way to take an hour-long test. It ended up changing where she applied to school. At first she was pretty sad about it. Then she decided that schools that aren’t paying attention to these structural barriers are not for her.