On February 5, 2024, Dartmouth College announced that they would return to requiring standardized test scores for students applying for fall 2025 admission. This shift came after Dartmouth went test-optional for the Classes of 2025, 2026, and 2027 following the pandemic, and had later gone test-recommended for the Class of 2028. They are the first Ivy League institution to reinstate the requirement of SAT or ACT scores, following the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) last year.

A group of Dartmouth faculty—comprising three economics and one sociology professor—served on the research team that ultimately made the decision to mandate test scores. In an email explaining this choice, Dartmouth President Sian Beilock justified this choice as a logical conclusion to the team's research. "Standardized test scores are an important predictor of a student’s success in Dartmouth’s curriculum," Beilock wrote. The research team determined that test scores are an important tool in distinguishing the most ambitious and academically motivated students, and noted that because these tests are standardized, they provide a solid baseline that is more consistent than GPA (which does not account for potential grade inflation or deflation). With regard to concerns about inequity, the research team explained that students from lower income backgrounds who performed well in relation to predicted data would be even more enticing applicants. Professor of Economics Bruce Sacerdote, a member of the research team, said, “That’s why testing is so helpful to less advantaged students. Because when admissions sees, ‘Wow, this student is really excelling in a less than perfect environment,’ that can be a very strong signal for that candidate.” Dartmouth judges applications holistically, looking at GPA, extracurricular activities, and essays in addition to standardized testing. However, because many of the candidates for top schools like Dartmouth have the same high grades and impressive extracurriculars, the admissions office views test scores as a way to build a more accurate and distinctive profile when reviewing applications.

Just shy of a year ago, MIT announced that they would also be requiring test scores beginning with the Class of 2028. Research by their admissions team concluded that test scores were essential in assessing students' academic preparedness from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Similar to Dartmouth’s reasoning, MIT recognized that standardized tests are a strong way for students in lower income or disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds to demonstrate that they would excel at a competitive institution, especially if they may not have had the opportunity to take advanced classes or participate in expensive extracurricular activities.

MIT identified the math sections of the SAT and ACT as most crucial for their admissions, given the university’s quantitative approach to education and intense science and math requirements. These scores would serve as a baseline to predict student success in MIT’s rigorous, STEM-oriented, and analytical curriculum. Dean of Admissions and Student Financial Services Stuart Schmill clarified that perfect scores are not a prerequisite for admission and that they are not always indicative of success, but that admissions officers instead use scores to assess preparedness.

Dartmouth and MIT have reverted to their pre-pandemic requirements, but other colleges and universities still have time to announce their test policies for the 2025-2026 application cycle. These decisions will determine if other high level institutions agree that required scores are beneficial to college admissions.