Why moving past the SAT is essential in today’s admissions

By Hilda Mejia Abreu and William Sedlacek
August 24th, 2015

Finding the right students with a holistic application approach.

application-admissions-intelligenceIn 2013, graduate programs received 1.97 million applications and accepted about 40.5 percent of applicants. The process relies heavily on standardized test scores to vet and decide which applicants to accept. But should today’s admissions officers, who often review hundreds, even thousands of applications, rely solely on standardized test scores to provide enough insight into prospective students?

The standardized test system is outdated, and it is time for institutions to implement a more holistic approach that accounts not just for applicants’ test scores and quantitative skills, but also their qualitative skills. Today, these skills are proving to be critical components in the professional world, and employers expect entry-level candidates to have developed them throughout their schooling along with achieving academic success.

The Three Types of Intelligence

Many people recognize everyone has different learning styles; similarly, there are three different types of intelligence based on Sternberg’s work that shows a person’s ability to use knowledge gained.

  • Componential Intelligence measures a person’s ability to interpret information hierarchically in a well-defined, unchanging context and is the traditional way schools evaluate prospects through standardized test scores.
  • Experiential Intelligence assesses creativity and the ability to interpret information in changing contexts.
  • Contextual Intelligence concerns adaptability and capability to negotiate the system for personal benefit.

The latter two types are considered non-traditional measurements. Their qualitative nature makes them much more difficult to assess, especially in the application process, which leads many schools to use test scores as an initial and reigning measure for applicants. However, this may cause schools to miss out on potentially strong applicants–ones that will perform well both academically and in the workplace.

A growing number of schools are beginning to recognize the value of these different types of intelligence and, to identify and enroll students that demonstrate them, are de-emphasizing the standardized testing approach. However, there is a lack of a systematic process to identify noncognitive variables that help pinpoint a person’s intelligence type.

(Next page: Identifying intelligence outside of test scores)

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