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With changing SAT requirements somewhat difficult to navigate, The Sun looks into the potential impact for applicants applying to Cornell.

November 30, 2023

Cornell Continues to Devalue Standardized Testing as Collegeboard Adapts Digital SAT

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While Cornell continues to devalue standardized testing in its admission process with test-optional and test-blind policies, applicants to Cornell will see a digitalized, shortened SAT exam, beginning in 2024.

Many students told The Sun that they view the shift to a digital SAT as an impact of the continuing trend away from universities’ historical reliance on standardized tests — a shift that has particularly persisted at Cornell.

A representative of Cornell declined to comment on test-blind and test-optional policies and about policy adjustments due to the digital SAT. However, Prof. Avery August, immunology, who serves as the deputy provost of the Faculty Senate, said that the University will “continue to evaluate the test-optional experiment” throughout all of Cornell’s colleges to decide upon the appropriate “use of standardized testing as part of our admissions process” at the Oct. 11 Faculty Senate meeting.

In 2020, Cornell was among colleges that shifted application requirements to reflect fewer standardized testing opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At that point, the University established that Cornell’s test-optional policy was not permanent.

Cornell currently does not require any first-year applicants to submit SAT or ACT exam scores, and three colleges currently hold entirely test-blind policies, meaning standardized test scores are not considered in the admissions process for all applicants, regardless of their desire to submit scores. The test-blind colleges include the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the S.C. Johnson College of Business and the College of Architecture, Art and Planning. 

While some colleges, such as the University of Florida, Georgetown University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have since added standardized test requirements back to their admissions processes, other colleges, including all eight Ivy League schools, have continued to devalue test scores. On March 1, Columbia University became the first Ivy League school to opt for a permanent test-optional policy.

In 2020, the temporary suspension of the SAT during the pandemic sparked a wave of speculation over whether this measure would serve as a catalyst for a more profound reassessment of the entire testing landscape. 

The University expanded its test-optional and test-blind policies for applicants in 2023 and 2024. The University’s policy for 2025 applicants will be released in the spring of 2024, according to the Cornell Undergraduate Admissions website

The SAT has been administered as a paper-based test since its start in the 1920s. Starting in 2024, students will use a new app called “Bluebook” to take all exam sections. Despite this switch from pen to tablet, the traditional setting of official testing centers with proctors overseeing the process will remain unchanged.

Digitalizing this age-old measure of aptitude will also bring about a shorter, more simple test — a two instead of three hours testing time frame, shorter passages for the reading section and calculator usage on all mathematical sections. 

The alterations proposed by the College Board have stirred a blend of anticipation and concern among test-takers and analysts of the test alike.

Sadie Burke ’27 sees the shift to a digital exam as a result of the long-term reassessment of the necessity for standardized testing.

“This change [to a digital SAT] is great for the future of students. It shows that people finally accept that real academic excellence goes beyond a single test,” Burke said. “The future of education lies in flexibility and adaptable methods that find out what each student is capable of, not just their test scores.” 

Burke’s viewpoint resonates with an expanding sentiment shared by educators and students, who, even before seeing changes in the SAT’s format, have argued that standardized tests may not accurately reflect a student’s authentic knowledge and potential. There is a growing understanding that academic success goes beyond performance on a single exam; a more holistic approach is necessary to fully grasp and cultivate every student’s unique talents and abilities.

Zac Kimmelman ’27 questioned the relevance of standardized testing in general in the post-COVID era.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, it made sense for colleges to suspend the SAT because many students could not go to testing sites. But those shutdowns are over,” Kimmelman said. “Standardized testing is the best way to show how ready an applicant is to handle the rigorous course load of a university.”

Jonah Kosloff ’27 said he believes that test optional-policies will remain largely unaffected by the ongoing wave of digitalization.

“Because we have the option not to submit [standardized test scores], I assume admissions isn’t overly concerned with our scores on the SAT as a whole, new or not,” Kosloff said.

Kimmelman, however, believes that it is hard to predict the impact of the digital SAT on the admissions process.

“Only time will tell how the digital SAT will impact Cornell,” Kimmelman said.  

Samantha Palombo ’27 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].