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What does test optional *really* mean? Should you still take the SAT or ACT?

In recent years, an increasing number of colleges and universities have become “SAT or ACT test optional.” Test optional means that students can choose whether or not to submit SAT or ACT scores as part of their college application. This trend has raised questions among high school students and parents about the significance of taking the SAT or ACT and whether it’s still beneficial. This blog post will answer those questions and so much more to help you decide if you should take the exams despite choosing colleges that are test optional.

What Does SAT or ACT Test Optional Mean?

SAT or ACT test optional means that colleges and universities have decided not to make SAT scores a requirement for admission. Instead, they focus on other parts of the application, such as grades, essays, and extracurricular activities, to evaluate a student’s readiness for college. In some cases, test optional schools may still consider SAT or ACT scores, but they are not used as a determining factor in the admissions process.

What is the difference among test options, test flexible, and test blind?

Test Optional:
  • Test optional means the student can decide (has the “option”) if they want to submit their SAT/ACT scores or not.
Test Flexible:
  • This allows flexibility to which test the students submit with their application. Meaning, they can submit the SAT, ACT, AP, or IB tests.
Test Blind:
  • Test blind means even if a student submits their scores, the colleges are “blind” to the score and won’t consider it in their application.

Should I still take the SAT or ACT?

While taking the SAT or ACT may not be a requirement for some colleges, there are still several benefits to taking the exam. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Improving your chances of getting into college:
Even if a college is test optional, submitting SAT or ACT scores can still help you stand out from other applicants and improve your chances of being admitted. SAT or ACT scores can demonstrate your academic abilities and skills, and can help you showcase your strengths to colleges. Additionally, if you have a good SAT or ACT score, this can off-set your GPA or other factors of your application.
2. Receiving scholarship opportunities:
SAT scores can also play a role in scholarship decisions, as some colleges and organizations use SAT or ACT scores to award scholarships to academically talented students. Even though many schools do not require the SAT or ACT for admissions, they may require the SAT or ACT for their scholarships. Therefore, you don’t want to lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars because you didn’t take the exam.
3. Preparing for college:
Taking the SAT or ACT can also help you prepare for the academic rigors of college. The exam covers content and skills that are essential for college success, such as mathematics, reading comprehension, writing, and critical thinking. Additionally, a lot of the concepts that are on the SAT and ACT are on the college placement exams, so while you prepare for these exams you are indirectly preparing for college.

If I take the SAT or ACT, do I have to submit my score?

No, you do not have to submit your SAT or ACT score if you attend a “test optional” school. While submitting SAT or ACT scores can demonstrate your academic abilities and skills, and help you stand out from other applicants, it is ultimately up to you to decide whether or not to submit your scores to a test optional school. You should weigh the benefits and disadvantages, and consider factors such as your own test scores and how they compare to the average scores of admitted students at the schools you are applying to. You can find the average SAT or ACT score of each school by typing in “(your school name) average SAT score” on google.

Should you submit your scores to test optional schools?

In short, you should only submit your scores if they are “good”, meaning above the 75th percentile for the applicants of that specific school. However, let’s dig deeper into when you should submit your scores and when you shouldn’t, which the list below demonstrates.
Submit your scores if:
  • you test scores are “good” (at or near the 75th percentile of admitted students to that specific school)
  • the school as a recommended test policy (meaning, the school does not require you to submit your scores but they recommend that you submit your scores)
Do not submit your scores if:
  • you test scores are “bad” (below the 50th percentile of admitted students to that specific school)
  • you are very confident in other areas of your application (GPA, class rank, extra curricular activities, etc.)
  • You have other strong test score (ie. AP, IB, etc)

What schools are test optional?

In pervious years, test optional colleges were rare; however, there has been a shift in thought throughout the last few years. Currently, there are slightly over 1,000 colleges that have adapted to the test optional policy. The pandemic helped escalate this trend as many students were unable to take the SAT or ACT during the lockdown. Even after the restrictions ended, many schools kept these policies in place.

Why are schools switching to test optional?

As mentioned, many schools started this policy due to the pandemic; however, there are also several other reasons for this change. One of the main reasons is to attract more diverse applicants as not everyone has the opportunity to pay to take the exam multiple times or hire a tutor to help them increase their scores. Therefore, they wanted to open the application to anyone and to let the student decide if their exam score is representative of their academic abilities.

How should I prepare for the SAT or ACT?

If you are wanting to take the SAT or ACT, which we highly encourage, you can utilize some of Prep For Success’ SAT free resources or ACT free resources or you can reach out to a tutor to help create a customized study plan for you and teach you all the tips and tricks for the exam.
In conclusion, SAT or ACT test optional policies have changed the college admissions landscape, but taking the SAT or ACT can still be beneficial for many students. Whether you want to improve your chances of being admitted, receive scholarship opportunities, or prepare for college, the SAT or ACT can be an important part of your college journey. So, weigh the benefits and decide if taking the SAT or ACT is right for you.

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Prep For Success has a team of amazing SAT & ACT tutors, who have all scored in the 99th percentile. Additionally, all of them have been rigorously trained on all of our tips, tricks, and strategies to obtain a high score! Each tutor takes the time to understand your specific strengths and weaknesses so you don’t waste time in your studies and have the most effective study plan! Feel free to reach out to get assistance on the ACT, SAT or College Admissions.

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