Test-Optional: The New Normal?

Winston Lee ’23, Contributor

The dreaded standardized tests, the SAT and ACTs, that we’ve all stressed about at one point or another, might finally be coming to an end. There has always been a debate about whether or not standardized tests are an accurate measure of a student’s ability.
With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many institutions have enacted test-optional policies in order to not penalize students who either haven’t gotten the opportunity to take the test, or feel as though the number is not an accurate representation of them as a learner. Those universities who have adopted this policy will be reviewing applications in a holistic manner, meaning that the candidacy of a student will not be impacted by the presence of a standardized test score.
Pre-pandemic, the SAT and ACT have long dominated the college application process—with only roughly 1,070 schools being test-optional in the United States. Now, there are approximately 1,686 universities that are test-optional as a result of the COVID pandemic (US News, Moody, 2020).
As COVID has swept through the country, colleges realized that not requiring students to submit scores releases students from test tension and anxiety amongst their applicant pool. Moreover, the number of schools requiring the SAT or ACT has rapidly declined and more universities have realized that these tests seem to show more about family income rather than student ability.
Recently, even the most prestigious and competitive schools who have required scores in the past have been stepping away. Harvard, Brown, UPenn, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth and Stanford have all announced that they will remain test-optional through the high school class of 2023.
The big question among current students is: “does the SAT really matter in 2022?” Nowadays, test scores do not hold the same importance as they used to, but submitting a strong score can still boost chances of acceptance. Students’ scores should reflect your GPA and overall application; therefore, if a student deems their test score a poor reflection of their academic ability, they now have the ability to apply as test-optional.
“Not submitting a score doesn’t hurt a student in the process. Or if it hurts them a little bit, it’s not hurting them as much as submitting a lower score would’ve hurt them in pre-test optional times,” said David Rion, Director of the College Office
“As so many colleges have gone test-optional for the next few years, students shouldn’t worry too much. If a student takes the test a few times and isn’t close to their goals, they can usually just decide to apply Test Optional to most or all colleges on their list,” said Rion.
Ultimately, if colleges are abiding by their claim of doing a “holistic review” of students’ applications, the absence of a standardized test score will not make or break their acceptance; rather, it’s just a small piece of the puzzle.