Before Standardized Testing

Paul Rahe:

What, you might ask, did universities do before the SAT and ACT existed? Some had their own exams – which gave great advantage to those who could travel to the campus to take it. Others emphasized “character” – which, though in principle admirable, tended in practice to mean that to be successful an applicant had to belong to the appropriate social class. In much of the Ivy League, this meant that Catholics, Jews, and the like had no need to bother applying. As discovery in a recent court case against Harvard revealed, this is how that university excludes Asian-American applicants today.

Public universities sometimes opted for another – far more rational expedient – for separating the sheep from the goats, and the University of California was in their number. As one individual observed in a letter published in The Wall Street Journal,