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Mike Sexton, dean of admissions at Oregon’s Lewis and Clark College, which went “test-optional” 17 years ago, said part of the reason was growing skepticism of the high-stakes testing model in general — including the federal No Child Left Behind Law, which requires testing in K-12.

“Is a multiple-choice test for three hours one morning the gateway into a student’s soul?” he asked.

Another factor is the concern among some admissions officials that while the tests were designed to equal the playing field for rich and poor students, they may now favor the rich.

“As more and more of the affluent population avail themselves of expensive test-preparation courses and pay to take the tests multiple times, the gap between them and the less affluent becomes greater,” said Steven T. Syverson, dean of admissions and financial aid at Wisconsin’s Lawrence University, which went test-optional two years ago partly due to this concern.

Proponents of such policies point to Maine’s Bates College, which adopted a test-optional admission policy in 1984 and released a 20-year study a few years ago finding virtually no difference in academic performance or graduation rates between those who had submitted test scores and those who hadn’t.

Some critics question whether test-optional schools are simply trying to generate more applications so they’ll have a higher rejection rate, while some say such policies could serve to inflate the schools’ average SAT-scores.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that when these colleges make SAT scores optional, only applicants with higher scores are going to submit them, thus inflating the college’s mean [SAT] score,” said Bev Taylor, an independent college consultant based in New York.