|P.O. Box Z
The University of Texas at Austin
Office of Public Affairs
Bruce Walker, Office of Admissions, (512) 475-7326
D. Meckel, Office of Public Affairs, (512) 475-7847
April 2, 2002
force on admissions process affirms strengths
“holistic” approach at The University of Texas at Austin
—A special task force review has determined that the
“holistic” approach adopted in 1997 by The University of Texas at Austin to
de-emphasize standardized tests in its admissions process is a fair and
effective system that should not be changed.
"holistic" approach to admissions uses several factors other than test
scores to determine whether or not an applicant should be admitted, said Dr.
Bruce Walker, director of admissions and chairman of the university's Task Force
on Standardized College Admissions Testing.
found the balance between test scores and other measures of student merit,”
said Walker. “The ultimate verification of our process is the diversity, the
academic strength and the staying power of our students.”
He noted, for example, that the retention rate at The University of Texas
at Austin (the percentage of freshmen returning for their sophomore year)
increased from 87.9 percent in 1996 to a rate of 92 percent for the Class of
said the six-person task force determined that the “holistic” approach to
admissions yields students with a variety of desirable qualities in addition to
high scores on standardized tests. Prior
to 1997, admission was based almost entirely on high school rank and scores on
in the “holistic” approach include the student's high academic record that
includes class rank, completion of high school curriculum required by The
University of Texas at Austin and the extent
to which the student exceeded the university's required units.
Among the “personal achievement” variables considered are the
student's record for leadership, awards, extracurricular activities, work
experience, socio-economic status of the family and school attended, and other
factors. Students also must
demonstrate their writing ability on two essays.
task force was created in the summer of 2001 by Dr. Larry R. Faulkner, president
of The University of Texas at Austin, to study the admissions process for the
period 1996 through 2000. He told the members their objective was to consider the role
that standardized test scores play in the university's admissions process and to
insure continued fairness in this process for prospective students.
Faulkner made it clear he had no preconceived ideas about how strong a
role admissions tests should play and simply wanted an assessment of the facts
with any recommendations about their continued use.
appointed the task force after a lecture by Dr. Richard C. Atkinson, president
of the University of California System, in which Atkinson concluded that
America's overemphasis on the SAT I: Reasoning Test is compromising the nation's
educational system. Among other things, Atkinson called for the use of
five SAT II Subject Tests (previously called the “Achievement Tests”) in the
admissions process instead of the more common SAT I: Reasoning Test.
task force, however, determined that the small differences in predictive
validity between the SAT I and SAT II, and even smaller differences between SAT
II and the ACT, “are insufficient for this task force to recommend the use of
the SAT II in the area of admissions.”
task force recommended continued use of ACT and SAT I standardized tests in
assessing the academic aspects of a student's qualifications for admission.
It also recommended against the use of SAT II: Subject Tests as a part of
the admissions process because the marginal difference in predictive validity
does not warrant the additional costs to students nor the costs associated with
the major systems changes that would be required.
SAT II Math and Writing tests have served the university well in course
placement and should continue to be used for that purpose, the task force said.
predictive power of the ACT Assessment and the SAT I were validated through
research conducted on campus by the university's Office of Admissions Research
and the Measurement and Evaluation Center, and externally by ACT, Inc., and the
College Board/Educational Testing Service. These validity studies are
other issues studied by the task force were the possible effects of
“coaching” or test preparation. The question was whether test takers
from poor homes — those not able to afford expensive prep classes or tutors
— were at an unacceptable disadvantage.
task force found that while there is a dearth of independent and credible
research in this area, what is now available strongly suggests that the effect
of coaching on the SAT I and the ACT Assessment is minimal and within the
standard of error of measurements of the tests. Because the reliability of
both tests is high (about .92 for the SAT I and .96 for the ACT), there is no
credible evidence that re-testing has consistently significant benefits for
students, the task force said.
coaching nor re-testing has as much effect on raising scores as do decisions by
students to prepare themselves for college by taking the most challenging
coursework available to them,” the task force reported.
message to students, parents and school officials from the task force is that
the best way for students to prepare for admission to The University of Texas at
Austin is to take the curriculum we recommend and earn grades that place them at
the top of their class. They should
learn to write effective, well developed essays and become involved in making
their school and community better. Students
who spend any significant time preparing for tests rather than all of the above
are not using their time wisely,” Walker said.
of the task force headed by Walker included Dr. Judy Ashcroft, associate vice
president and director of the Division of Instructional Innovation and
Assessment; Dr. Larry D. Carver, professor in the Department of English; Dr.
Patrick Davis, professor in the College of Pharmacy; Dr. Lodis Rhodes, professor
in the LBJ School of Public Affairs; Gerald Torres, professor in the School of
Law, and Gary M. Lavergne, director of admissions research.