Posted on May 27, 2020
#studyabroad #international student #student guide 

Does ‘test-optional’ mean ‘test-dispensable’?

To answer this question, let’s first understand the difference between the various testing policies.

TEST OPTIONAL TEST FLEXIBLE TEST BLINK
A test optional admission policy implies that it is not mandetoey for a student to submmit a SAT or ACT scores as part of the application, but if scores are completed they will be considered Test flixible colleges specify a list of standardise test scores that are acceptable in the support of the application. SAT/ACT may be replaced by the subject SATs or IBDP/A level predicts Test blind colleges do not require students to submit any standerdize test scores with the application. Even if the students repost the test scores they will not be considered

Over the past few weeks, a total of 52 universities/colleges have gone test-optional, with the numbers steadily on the rise due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. The list includes highly ranked colleges and universities such as Cornell, Amherst College, Williams College, and the University of California.

Should you still bother taking the SAT or the ACT? After all, this test-optional situation does sound like a waiver of some sort at first. No more of getting worked up about getting each multiple-choice question right. No more toiling through history and science passages. No more proving yourself through a test score. As with most things in life however, the truth is more complicated and needs careful evaluation.

When a school announces that it is 'test-optional', this simply means that test scores are not required to complete the application. What you need to remember is that most of these schools still do factor in test scores should you choose to include them in your application.

Let’s understand this situation better through an analogy.

Say you have asked to recruit new members for the school choir or band out of a group of strangers whose applications you have on your desk. You don’t have much time since you have your own classes and other responsibilities to take care of. Neither do you have the time to ask each person to sing (the horror!). Now if including an audition video was optional, which means that some candidates include it with their applications while others don't, who would you select? Chances are you will select the candidates whose applications provide proof that they actually can sing so that at the least there is no disharmony.

Be assured that your application will also be looked into by individuals who don’t have much time on their hands. It’s really impossible for them to evaluate your unique skills. Since both SAT and ACT are standardized scores that allow for easy comparison, they are likely to view you favorably if you have a stellar score on your application. A test score allows for easier comparisons and diversity can be factored in using the other elements of your application.

Here is a list of the 52 universities/colleges that have gone test-optional recently:

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Why do schools go test-optional?

Schools were going test-optional even before Covid-19 hit the world. Other than trying to ease out the admissions process, this benefits the institution's rankings too. Let’s understand how:

An increased number of applicants results in a lower acceptance rate Only students with high standardized scores would report the scores, inflating the average test score for the schools

What is the role of SAT/ACT in the application process?

Apart from being a means of uniform evaluation of diverse global applicants, the Standardized Tests also enable colleges to eliminate and categorize applications prior to reviewing them.

As a counsellor, I have worked with students from all over the world. Each year I have observed that the Standardised Tests are an important tool to assess reasoning skills and aptitude fairly. A privileged student who may have employed a full time tutor might still not perform well while a student with no additional test prep support may naturally ace the test. The standardized tests even out the playing field for all applicants, whether rich or poor, by giving students a fair chance to showcase their academic acumen.

Can home-testing ensure fair assessment?

Testing bodies are taking necessary steps to ensure fairness, such as administering the tests at a fixed time across different time zones or asking candidates to switch on their testing device’s video camera while writing the test. However, colleges will use their discretion too while evaluating the application. Colleges are explicitly stating that they will question the results of home testing if they are not in sync with the student’s overall academic caliber. In fact, students are being encouraged to submit the home-test scores only if they believe the score is an accurate reflection of their aptitude. In the present scenario, universities are conducting final semester evaluations, in a digital at-home format too. The US Admissions Process and the entire Education System is based on a very strong Honor Code; if students can’t uphold that code, maybe the US isn't the right destination for them anyway!

How do I evaluate whether I should take a standardized test or not?

One thing is for certain. The test-optional scenario has opened up more choices for students. You need to examine your unique profile, aspirations and strengths before taking a decision. Some point to consider:

Even as some more colleges decide to go test-optional, many colleges still require the SAT/ACT scores. Thus, taking the SAT/ACT will keep more options open for you.

If you are going in without standardized test scores, your academic performance throughout high school and your profile will come under greater scrutiny. To compete effectively with an applicant who has stellar SAT/ACT test scores, your profile needs to be that much stronger and balanced. SAT/ACT scores showcase your reasoning ability, therefore most merit scholarships are based on test scores.

Let’s look at an example: The University Of Chicago

The University Of Chicago is one of the top-ranked universities in the US and in the world. The university decided to go test-optional in Spring 2018. So have scores ceased to matter for admissions to the university then?

According to information mentioned on the university’s website: “The SAT, ACT, and other standard measures can continue to be an important part of the University of Chicago’s holistic admission process for students electing to send scores. We encourage students to take standardized tests, like the SAT and ACT, and to share your scores with us if you think that they are reflective of your ability and potential.”

Of all the students admitted to the University of Chicago since the university decided to go test-optional, 53% of the students submitted the SAT/ACT scores. This shows that a standardized test score is not a thing of the past and that a stellar SAT or ACT score can still give you a competitive advantage. The situation is similar at most of the universities mentioned in the list above.

In Conclusion

Here’s a word of advice for those who fear standardized tests: the first step to addressing that fear is familiarizing yourself with these tests. Make the effort to take a diagnostic test for each test (ACT and SAT) and check not just what scores you are getting but whether you feel motivated to do better on these tests. You might surprise yourself by developing a taste for excellence. And if not, you will have gained perspective on what these tests are all about and how and why they are not for you.

Be objective about your decision to take or not take these standardized tests. Keep your options open and use the test-optional opportunity to reflect on and strengthen your application.

For those of you who are confident about your test-taking abilities, take the test and submit the scores as it is a definite value addition to the entire application.

Have more queries? No need to worry! Experience world class SAT and ACT tutoring from the comfort of your own home at an affordable price point. At Collegify, with the help of globally renowned tutors you will be able to unlock your test taking potential.

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