Does Test Optional Really mean Test Optional?

Posted by Neal Schwartz on September 25, 2021

does "test-optional" really mean test-optional?

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While standardized testing has been one of the major determinants of college admission for years, the pandemic has changed all of that.…or has it? Following waves of colleges adopting test-optional policies, competition seems tighter than ever. But how is that so? Isn’t the purpose of test-optional to give a greater opportunity to students that didn’t get a chance to take the SAT or ACT or for whom the pandemic greatly impacted their academic performance?

It seems that the test-optional wave might not be exactly as it seems, as now admissions may distinguish between those who choose to submit scores and those who refrain. As we’ve mentioned in other posts, test-optional does not mean test blind. What that means is that all scores that will be submitted can be considered as a boost to the application. And the weight of not submitting a score means that there are fewer metrics to prove a candidate’s eligibility for admission.


So is not submitting scores a riskier choice for students? The general consensus is that scores are not required for many colleges now, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t encouraged. From a school’s point of view, test-optional is 100% beneficial because it means that more students will be applying, unhindered by score requirements, and that the schools will ultimately reject more applicants, boosting the school’s selectivity factor. Schools may also assume that students who submit scores are proud of their scores and those that choose not to submit may not have performed as well.  For the most competitive colleges with test optional offerings, roughly 50-60% of applicants still submitted test scores.  This is a phenomenal and telling statistic during a pandemic when test sites were limited.  


Testing isn’t everything, as we’ve learned through this long evolution in the college application process, but that doesn’t mean that testing is totally falling out of favor. Test scores will certainly be appreciated by those who submit them, and may make a difference in admission between candidates that have similar profiles. So when in doubt, our advice is to submit!

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Neal Schwartz, Owner

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Neal Schwartz, Owner

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Topics: college preparation, college admissions, early action, college counseling, high school senior, high school junior, test optional


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