A recent article in NY Times discusses the trouble with using SAT as the sole criterion for admission. This is actually one of the followups from several articles published on this issue in the Chronicle of Higher Education. This is based on the report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. which discusses that tests like the SAT and ACT were never meant to be viewed in isolation but considered as one of the factors that include grades, essays and so on. But with the college ranking systems considering SAT as one of the main criteria for ranking, the colleges seem to have preferred the exam as the one of the major criteria of admission until recently. Now many colleges in USA have made SAT optional, though the major institutes like MIT and Harvard still require SAT.
This backdrop is interesting considering that IISc is planning to drop GATE as one of the requirements for admission to its research degrees (masters and doctoral programs) in engineering. Under this proposal, the main criteria is the percentage of marks obtained by the candidate in the B.E/B.Tech examination and anyone who secures more than 70% marks in their undergraduation will be eligible for admission.
My opinion on the above has always been that we should not obsess with admissions tests like GATE for doctoral programs and we should take an expansive view of merit that would include GATE, the undergraduate scores, communication skills and motivation. However, for masters program, we need an all-India entrance exam just to screen the huge numbers. With nearly six undergraduates in engineering (and 2.5 lakhs of them expressing an interest in higher studies by writing GATE) with wide variations in the undergraduate marks awarded in each university, it would be nearly impossible to screen them only by interviews.