Does My Student Need to Take the SAT or ACT This Year?

SAT and ACT exam dates have been canceled for months. Standardized testing is in chaos. As more schools choose to make tests optional, you may wonder if your student should bother to take these exams.

With so many students unable to take the SAT or ACT within the usual time frames, schools are scrambling to accommodate the extraordinary circumstances. And it’s not just for the students’ benefit: college admissions are declining, and schools fear their class sizes may be significantly smaller than normal. They’re committed to removing roadblocks in the admissions process to encourage more students to apply.

Do SAT and ACT scores still matter?

All of this tumult has accelerated a trend known as the test-optional movement. When a school goes test-optional, it means that applicants aren’t required to submit standardized test scores to be considered for admission. Some schools are taking these measures on a 1-3 year basis, assuming they will be temporary. Others, however, are choosing to go test-optional permanently. (There are a host of issues related to access and equity in standardized testing that are informing these decisions, but we’ll save that for another post.)

Does this mean that your student is off the hook when it comes to taking the SAT/ACT? Maybe…but maybe not. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

To truly answer the question, you need to understand the important distinction between test-optional schools and test-blind schools.

Test-Optional vs. Test Blind Schools

Test optional schools don’t require standardized test scores. However, if a student chooses to submit scores, they will be considered as part of their application. If a student’s test scores are strong, it’s likely that they could improve a student’s chances of admission.

Test blind schools don’t take standardized testing into account at all during the admissions process. Submitting a 1600 on the SAT has the same result as not submitting a score at all. Students are evaluated solely on other criteria.

Most schools that no longer require standardized testing are test-optional, which means that if a student submits scores, a college will consider them.

Should my student take standardized tests?

We recommend carrying on with test prep and standardized testing for almost all students. If your student has strong test scores to submit, they’re worth including as part of their applications. Those scores may give them a boost in the admissions process.

On the other hand, if your student’s test scores don’t end up being that strong (even after thorough test prep and possibly help from an expert tutor), they may want to forgo submission on the application process. Keep in mind, however, that not submitting does leave a hole in your student’s applications.

Test scores may also be required for athlete eligibility and scholarship opportunities.

Signet’s recommendation on SAT and ACT testing

If your student wants to leave as many options available as possible, we recommend that they prep for and take the SAT/ACT as they normally would. While test scores may not be vital to your student’s application process, we’d hate for them to miss out on a school that was a great fit for them if those test scores do become necessary. Test prep does require some work, but if it helps your student get into a school that provides an amazing experience, it’s more than worth the effort.

Picture of Sheila A.

Sheila A.

Sheila Akbar is President & COO of Signet Education. She holds a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Harvard University and two doctoral degrees from Indiana University. She joined the team in the summer of 2010, bringing with her a wealth of experience teaching SAT, ACT, GRE, literature, and composition in both one-on-one and classroom settings.

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