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Downsides of Reducing the Role of Standardized Exams in College – My MBA Career



Last Updated on October 21, 2023 by Robert C. Hoopes

Title: Study Suggests Changes to College Admission Exams Impact Earnings for Students, Research Finds

Subtitle: Exam overhaul in Colombia serves as a cautionary tale for standardized admission exams

Summary: In a comprehensive study conducted by Assistant Professor Evan Riehl, the impact of changes to standardized college admission exams on the earnings of high- and low-income students was examined. The research focused on the national college admission exam in Colombia, which underwent significant redesign in 2000 to address concerns of bias. Although the test score gaps between income groups were successfully decreased, the revised exam proved to be a poorer measure of abilities vital for college success. Consequently, students who participated in the new system were more likely to drop out, resulting in reduced labor market earnings for all income levels. These findings underscore the importance of academic preparation in college admissions and caution against the potential drawbacks of reducing standardized admission exams. With many selective U.S. colleges transitioning to test-optional or test-blind admissions, the research calls attention to the challenges faced by admission committees in identifying academically prepared students without relying solely on exam scores. The study’s findings will be published in the esteemed Journal of Labor Economics.

Word Count: 110 words

In a recent study by Assistant Professor Evan Riehl, it has been suggested that changes made to standardized college admission exams could have profound implications for high- and low-income students’ earnings. Riehl’s research focused on the national college admission exam in Colombia, which underwent a major overhaul in 2000 to combat concerns regarding bias. While the revised test successfully reduced the achievement gap between income groups, it unfortunately became a less accurate measure of the abilities crucial for success in college.

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The consequences were significant – students who participated in the revamped system were more likely to drop out and subsequently experienced reduced earnings in the labor market, regardless of their income level. The results serve as a reminder of the critical role played by academic preparation in the college admissions process and bring attention to the potential downsides of decreasing reliance on standardized admission exams.

The study’s findings also shed light on the challenges faced by admission committees at many prestigious U.S. colleges, as an increasing number of institutions have adopted test-optional or test-blind admissions policies in recent years. With changes to exams making it harder for committees to identify students who will thrive in their programs, colleges must now rely on alternative criteria to ensure they admit academically prepared individuals.

This research, set to be published in the Journal of Labor Economics, adds weight to the ongoing debate surrounding standardized admission exams and their impact on both students and higher education institutions. As universities continue to navigate the evolving landscape of college admissions, finding a delicate balance between criteria that accurately identify potential academic success and promote diversity remains a pressing concern.

Word Count: 249 words.

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