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Wake Forest drops SAT requirement

The North Carolina university is the latest to no longer insist on standardized tests.

RALEIGH, N.C. - Wake Forest University will no longer require applicants to take the SAT and ACT exams, boosting a movement to lessen the importance of standardized tests in college admissions.

The Winston-Salem school, which admitted just 38 percent of its 9,000 applicants for this fall, is the latest in a string of colleges that no longer require standardized tests. Officials there say the scores are not the best predictors of academic potential.

But most other colleges that have dropped standardized testing have not been highly selective and accept most, if not all, qualified applicants. The most prominent and selective schools have generally continued to use the tests as one of several admissions criteria.

The announcement today from Wake Forest - on the heels of a similar decision this month by Smith College in Massachusetts - adds two more selective colleges to the movement.

Wake Forest said it was the first of the top 30 schools in the annual U.S. News & World Report college rankings to drop the tests.

Admissions director Martha Allman said she had seen students at the top of their high school classes who excelled, but did poorly on the SAT and did not get into college.

The school, which did away with the testing requirement while examining how to diversify its student population, will instead place more emphasis on personal interviews, academics and extracurricular activities. Test scores will now be optional.

"We in admissions have put up a barrier to these students to say all of your hard work and all of your academic achievement is being negated by one test, and we don't feel like that is fair," Allman said.

Alana Klein, a spokeswoman for the College Board, which owns the SAT, said there was no trend toward schools doing away with standardized tests. She said smaller schools were opting not to require SAT or ACT scores because they can take a more holistic approach to admissions.

Standardized tests are often the only way colleges can directly measure students from different schools, and large universities - which may have tens of thousands of applications - rely on them. But critics say the exams are too stressful and keep some students from showing their real potential.