As part of the National Association for College Admission
Counseling’s (NACAC) mission to support professionalism
in admission practice and ensure a level playing field
for all students, NACAC has long taken an interest in
monitoring how standardized admission test scores are used
in the admission process. However, admission tests are one
among many factors that colleges consider when evaluating
prospective student applications.
explores the broader subject of predictive validity studies related to a
variety of admission criteria and student outcomes. Because
of the breadth of this subject, the focus of the paper is on
the extent to which validity studies are being utilized on
campuses around the country and the ways in which the
studies are conducted.
• Standardized testing is required by an overwhelming
majority of survey respondent colleges.
At 78 percent of institutions, either the SAT or ACT is required.
A smaller proportion requires one specific admission
test—the ACT at 6 percent of institutions and the SAT
at 3 percent.
Slightly more than half (51 percent) of responding
institutions reported that they conduct admission
Survey results indicate that the use of validity studies
increases with both enrollment size and admission se-
lectivity. Colleges that require applicants to submit testscores also are more likely to conduct these studies
• Predictive validity study methodologies most frequently
used by survey respondents include simple and multi-vari-
ate linear regression, as well as logistic regression.
The most common predictors used in regression models are
high school GPA and admission test scores.
The most common outcome measured is first-year college GPA.
•More than half (59 percent) of institutions that con-
duct validity studies do so annually.
An additional 24 percent conduct these studies every
other year. Institutions with relatively large enrollments,
as well as more selective colleges, appear more likely to
conduct studies on an annual basis.
• According to the survey results, the vast majority of
institutions conducting validity studies do so
independently (78 percent) with a minority operating
in conjunction with an external provider, including
College Board and ACT.
The most common way in which validity study
results are being used by colleges is to review and
validate or refine criteria used in the admission process.
Other purposes (indicated by a small minority of
respondents) included retention planning, determining
at-risk-students, advising, awarding merit and/or need-
based financial aid, and marketing or recruitment.
• A review of actual validity studies conducted by 11 in-
stitutions who agreed to provide their results indicated
that no one research approach is used by all, or even
most, colleges. The questions to be asked, and the use-
fulness of the answers, tend to be institution-specific.