The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced this week that applicants once again must submit SAT or ACT scores, becoming the first prominent university to reverse a suspension of the requirement that was put in place because of the pandemic.

The reversal could reignite the debate over the value of test scores in college admissions, which have been criticized for putting minority and lower-income students at a disadvantage, but experts said it is not yet certain if other schools will follow.

It is not surprising that MIT, which is perhaps best known for its engineering and science programs, would be more willing than other universities to return to a test-based admissions process “given the highly technical nature of their curriculum,” said Zachary Bleemer, a postdoctoral fellow and education researcher at Harvard University.

But it is “very up in the air at the moment” whether the school will remain an outlier, he said.

MIT said Monday that it was reinstating the test score requirement in an effort to be “transparent and equitable in our expectations.”

“Our concern is that, without the compelling clarity of a requirement, some well-prepared applicants won’t take the tests, and we won’t have enough information to be confident in their academic readiness⁠ when they apply,” it said in a statement announcing the change. “We believe it will be more equitable⁠ if we require all applicants who take the tests to disclose their scores.”

The university had announced in July 2020 that it was suspending its SAT/ACT testing requirement because the coronavirus pandemic disrupted test preparation and access to testing sites. Prospective first-year and transfer students looking to enter MIT in 2021 were not required to submit test scores.

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MIT said it had a “longstanding policy of not penalizing students for disasters and disruptions” and that the policy “applied generally to the cancellations of activities and exams due to Covid-19.”

The university’s updated policy reinstates the testing requirement for the 2022–23 application cycle, meaning prospective first-year and transfer students seeking to enter MIT in 2023 must submit scores.

MIT’s about-face comes as universities and colleges have increasingly opted for test-optional admissions policies, allowing students to decide if they will submit their test scores. Some schools, including some of the colleges at Cornell University, have taken an additional step and are “test blind,” meaning they do not consider scores at all.

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More than 1,800 accredited colleges and universities that grant bachelor’s degrees won’t require students applying for fall 2022 admissions to submit test scores, according to The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit group that often opposes standardized testing. Their ranks have been buoyed by the pandemic, which disrupted education and led schools to re-evaluate their admissions policies.

MIT is “clearly an outlier,” said Bob Schaeffer, the center’s executive director. He added that schools that have done away with tests found that “you did not need to test scores to do admissions, selective admissions fairly or accurately.”

MIT’s decision, he said, won’t have an immediate effect on the many schools that have committed to be test-optional “for several years to come.”

For example, the 10-campus University of California system no longer considers SAT and ACT scores submitted with admission and scholarship applications as part of a settlement of a student lawsuit.

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Critics have long argued that relying on standardized test scores benefits wealthier students and puts minority and low-income students at a disadvantage.