UC slams the door on standardized admissions tests, nixing any SAT alternative

It is top 10% of Texas high schools that get automatic admission to all Texas public universities except UT Austin, which can set a lower percentage to fill about 3/4 of its class. UT Austin’s threshold is currently top 6%, according to Automatic Admissions Threshold Remains at 6% for UT Austin - UT News . Note that automatic admission to the UT Austin campus does not necessarily mean admission to the desired major. Less selective Texas public universities often have additional tiers of automatic admission based on rank or rank + SAT/ACT score.

The downside is that since this is based on current class rank as determined by the high school, there have been plenty of ugly rank-grubbing stories on these forums out of some of the Texas high schools with many striving high achieving students.


There is no perfect solution. And might I assume that for a driven student it is relatively easier to reach the top ranking in a less affluent school? Here in highly competitive Bay Area high schools it is already such a mad race to rise above everyone else and the schools don’t officially rank. I can’t imagine what it would be like if the schools did rank. I have a late blooming sophomore son that seems to be immune to all this. I’m happy for him yet on the other hand I think he has already thrown his chances at attending a UC (as a freshman) out the window by not taking the most rigorous course load that his high school offers. I’ll be keeping an eye on all the developments.

Not every UC is like UCLA in admission competitiveness. A student who likes UCSC, UCR, and UCM may find the level of admission competitiveness much less stressful.


Thank you for the perspective. He just articulated to me that he might want to be a lawyer. That’s a long game degree, which I think suits him. We’ll see. I love all the UC and CSU campuses. The CC as well. They have served my husband’s family well and I’m hoping our children continue to enjoy our public higher education system. It’s not for everyone but we’re big fans.


But he should also be aware that the law job market is declining, and law school rank is very important in law job hiring. Law school rank is strongly tied to law school admission selectivity (mostly college GPA and LSAT score).

Law school admissions: http://schools.lawschoolnumbers.com/
Law school employment reports: Law School Statistics | Law School Transparency

I’ve tried to steer him into the more democratic engineering fields because he’s good at math and science but with two parent engineers and an aspiring sister engineer the rebellious vibe is strong right now. I’m confident that he’ll figure it out eventually but it might be later rather than earlier. I’m just being realistic, I just don’t see prestigious selective law school in his future.

Edited to add: I’m veering off topic and will stop. Back to SATs being permanently cancelled.

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A better adjustment would directly take parental income into account, but that might not be possible for need blind schools.

And note making adjustments by zip code is still a much finer adjustment than making an adjustment based upon a broad category such as race.

Yep, hence the laughably bad cop-out.

This isn’t an accurate summary of the recommendation. Quotes from the task force summary recommendations are below below. Note that the task force recommended that UC create their own “assessment system” to replace existing standardized tests, such as SAT/ACT. And the task force members had differing opinions about whether UC should wait until the new “assessment system” is available before ceasing consideration of existing standardized test scores, such as SAT/ACT.


I think it will take less than 5 years to see a measurable increase in high school GPAs in California. There will be no consequences for inflating grades, particularly in affluent zip codes and prep schools.


Until now, the same schools would simply teach to the test, i.e., teach students how to do well on SATs, they would encourage and support students taking the tests multiple times (in one affluent high school district in Illinois, students took the ACT on average 3 times), and, of course, if you have the money, there is always a professional who will sign off on providing the kid of a wealthy family with an accommodation (a particularly wealthy district in MA has about 1/3 of their students with time accommodations for testing).

At least with GPA, you can compare their GPA to the class median and class average. If the class average is 3.8, that means that a 4.0 GPA is not all that meaningful, compared to, say, a school which has a 3.2 average GPA.

For people with money, it is far easier to game a single standardized test than it is to game 48 different classes over 4 years.


For girls, who generally mature earlier and suffer less frequently from ADHD, it is far easier to do well consistently in 48 classes over 4 years, compared to boys who might do (relatively) better on a single standardized test at the end of junior year.

It’s not hard to see that this is likely to further increase the percentage of girls at UCs.


At my DD’s school, the assignment of teacher mattered greatly, and administrators decided that by committee in secret. GPA within the school was dependent upon which teachers students were given. Certain teachers wrote the exams and graded more generously than others, and students in those sections benefitted. Preferential treatment for targeted, potential Ivy candidates, such as crew and squash athletes or generous donors’ children, was apparent from middle school.

GPAs are not the absolute indicator of deservedness that they appear to be, while standardized tests can and have been viewed in the context of relative socioeconomic differences. Within comparative situations, such regulated tests can be useful.

My DD had the same exact final grade as a squash player who was new to the school, but when only one spot remained for the junior year AP, it went to the athlete. The teacher’s explanation was, “that’s how the cookie crumbles.”

Just my two cents.


My D spent last summer using the free CB Khan academy prep online. We are not rich and she did not go through the American system. She had to go to the US during last school vacation because her October spot was cancelled last minute, November tests aren’t offered here. I begged (!) 2 schools to allow her to take the test at their centers back in October. Neither they nor the college board were helpful in trying to arrange anything. I found that elitist, that schools can be a center for only their students, and if we wanted to take the test, we would have to travel several hours and/or go to another country where there seemed to be plenty of centers.
In the end, it was easier to send her to stay with my sisters and visit her grandfather, rather than try to arrange something here.
After last summer’s prepping and the cancellation, she was really taking this SAT for herself, as she could have gone test optional. She was exhausted, thought she had done badly and flew home that same day. Yesterday we received the results, and they were excellent. Which goes to prove that one doesn’t need to go to an elitist international school here to pass the test, but just to take it.
I will say the CB helped arrange the test in the US, which I had trouble booking because of Covid perhaps.


In the absence of standardized tests, aren’t the high schools incentivized, and indeed pressured, to inflate grades further so average GPA will gradually approach, or even exceed, 3.8 at nearly all of them? What do UCs do then? Hire an army of essay readers to dig deeper into the essays of their 100k+ applicants each year, trying to see if they can figure out that way? Or would UC admissions become a lottery for all intents and purposes?


What is more likely to happen is something that should have already been in place. The UCs will learn to assess the entire student instead of relying on easily misleading factors such as Test Scores and GPA.

Using the example presented (girls/boys maturing earlier/later resulting in stronger/weaker 4yr GPA) in order to prevent a system comprised of 70% female students, I think the UCs will develop a way to assess applicants that continues to result in a gender ratio more or less in line with that of the general population in CA.

This is something that should have been done long ago, but when those locked out are predominately white males (instead of lower SES and/or URMs) I think the motivation will be stronger to create a more fair structure for deciding which applicants are admitted.

The ultimate goal should be to admit the students who are capable of doing the work at that college once admitted, capable of graduating from that college, and likely to move on to careers that allow them to use the education they received. College admissions to public universities (for in-state students) should not a be an ultra-competitive competition as it has become, where only those who perform best in two metrics easily gamed by a tiny minority of the population (Test Scores and GPA) have the best chance at admission.

If admission to more-desired destinations turns out to be a little more unpredictable than 2015, who is to say that is a less fair outcome than the system that existed in 2015? Certainly those students/families who were advantaged by the previous structure will complain - but that is not nearly a majority of people. And their complaints do not mean a more fair system is not the best outcome. It simply indicates those families would like to maintain a process that clearly advantages themselves. Understandable maybe, but not a reason to delay improvement.

Whenever there is progress someone will complain. There is no change that does not make someone unhappy. The complaints of a few should not prevent the installation of a better, more just, more equitable process. Hopefully a few years down the line, as with most public-policy innovations that take root in the massive state of CA, this new, hopefully more egalitarian process will spread to other states.


Congratulations to your D22! I was just thinking, did you consider having her take the test in the UK? The test centers here have been open since fall 2020.

I didn’t consider the UK, but there were places in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland….the problem was, I didn’t want to send her on her own and I couldn’t leave my husband on his own, nor would he have travelled easily. She happened to have vacation just then and I had family I could send her to, who she hadn’t seen in over 2 years. Having just lost my mother, I thought she should try and see my father before it was too late. So, it wasn’t just about the SAT, but I’m glad it worked out. She was absolutely exhausted when she got back, though!


Teachers work at a school, and if the school or even individual parents want grades to be higher, then in most cases, the grades will be higher. Wealthy parents don’t spend $50,000 a year for high school for their kids to get C’s. Grade inflation at prep schools and in affluent communities over the last 20 years is actually well documented.

Extra-curricular activities are by far the most biased towards privilege of any single factor that goes into college admissions, so why aren’t they eliminated? Private schools and affluent towns provide much greater access to EC’s than less affluent high schools.

It is worth noting that the same University of California system that thinks tests are too biased towards privilege actually asks for the parents AGI from their last tax return.


Your comparisons of how students arrive at similar low scores is helpful.

It will be interesting to see how this evolves. There are anecdotal stories of test optional students struggling on campus this year. It is hard to separate out post-covid school issues with overall lack of preparation and other abilities.

High school grades do not tell the whole story of a child’s protected success in college for so many reasons.

I like having various data points to help a student find where they are going to be successful. The test data is helpful to have as one piece, IMO.


The schools aren’t looking at the PSAT. But when a student is awarded Commendation or Semi-Finalist status, that is considered an award, and they can put it on their application, and admissions committees DO see that. So there is now an all-or-nothing threshold of communicating that the student has the ability to get a high score on a standardized test, which was administered in the fall of 11th grade. Most kids do not prep for the PSAT, since their head isn’t really in the college admissions game that early on, so those who do well on it either have been studying and prepping for it at least as early as over the summer before 11th grade, or what is more likely, have high intelligence combined with excellent academic preparedness. I would imagine that word is spreading right now among parents in the know that if they want their child to attend a UC flagship school, they’d better be prepped to do incredibly well on the PSAT, so that they can be awarded Commended or Semi-Finalist status.