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A 4th in a Series of Blogs about Rochester, Reading, and Testing

Jon Burdick writes post 4 of a four-part series (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) on Rochester's new "Test Flexible" stance for undergraduate admissions.

Rochester readers review testing as something you do (an achievement), not something you are.

Achievements matter, and readers look for them: you won the prize, the election, the game, you earned the grade, or the test score. Beyond assessing achievements, in trying to determine who you are (your character) and match that to Rochester, readers aim to understand:

  1. your family and environment;
  2. three or four years of your high school effort;
  3. your sustained growth, activities, and contributions to a group and community over time;
  4. the personality and curiosity you demonstrate during an interview.

You often hear the phrase “grades and test scores” as if those are equivalent. False! High school grades incorporate a longer and steadier series of a teacher's observations and measurements. Equating those grades with testing in admission review risks encouraging students to pursue an unproductive, singular-minded focus on testing, rather than a balanced interest in their classes and other activities over time.*

Readers here instead want to review testing results as independent measures of student achievements. Since the Rochester curriculum aims to help each student seek and build on her own best self, the best score matters most; it won't matter if some of her testing achievements are less impressive, any more than it would matter if her community service achievements (for example) were less impressive than her athletic achievements.

Important: there is no game here, no benefit for a Rochester applicant to suppress any tests. Readers are looking for a possible strength as a basis to admit, not the opposite. Also, including the extra "less impressive" testing result may help. In trying to see a profile of what you accomplish in testing, readers do not expect every student to be great at every kind of test, but it can be valuable to see that a student has confronted more than one kind of test.

It would be possible for a student to submit so many test results that readers will infer that activity, testing, as a major and serious representation of who they are: he is a test-taker. The question students have to ask themselves is, “Are readers excited about admitting someone because they took, and sent us, many tests?” My guess is in many cases readers are more excited about students who have, and show, other interests.


* Proof that test-focus is a maladaptive behavior comes from historically test-centric countries now pursuing educational reforms, in part aiming to reduce unhappy behaviors such as cheating.

What do you think of the new test-flexible policy? Be sure to leave your comments below!

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