What Does Test Optional Mean for My Junior?

ACT Test Prep Guide

This time of year is always stressful for high school juniors as they prepare to sit for the SAT or ACT.

Most juniors take the test of their choosing twice—first in late fall/winter (Dec-Feb) and again in early spring (Feb-April).

As test anxiety builds to a boiling point, your student may hear murmurings that standardized test scores are no longer required for college admissions.

Is it even worth it, they may wonder, to deal with the stress caused by studying for these tests? And if they score lower than anticipated the first time around, should they bother taking the test again?

Let’s look at the facts about the growing “test optional movement” and break down the best course of action for students seeking admission to competitive colleges.

What Is the Test Optional Movement?

The test optional movement suggests that standardized test scores don’t add meaningful value to a student’s college application because testing only shows a small part of their academic abilities and potential.

When a school goes test optional, applicants aren’t required to submit standardized test scores to be considered for college admission. However, it’s important to note that if a student chooses to submit scores, the college will consider them as part of the application. (We’ll return to this point soon.)

The onset of the pandemic accelerated the test optional movement. SAT and ACT exam dates were canceled left and right in 2020, and many colleges jumped aboard the test optional trend—some temporarily and others permanently.

Currently, 1,815+ accredited 4-year colleges and universities have test optional policies for Fall 2022 admissions. You can see the full list here at the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

Should Students Still Take the SAT or ACT?

The short answer to this question is: yes!

Since test optional colleges consider test scores when students choose to submit them, strong scores can give students a boost in the college admissions process. For this reason, Signet recommends that juniors carry on with test prep and standardized testing as planned. Although test scores aren’t as vital as they once were, we’d hate to see a student miss out on an opportunity to attend their top-choice college because they didn’t make time for test prep.

If your student doesn’t score as well as they hoped the first time around, it’s still worthwhile for them to retake the test in the spring. With proper test prep and possibly the help of a one-on-one tutor, most students can increase their SAT score by 100-200 points and their ACT score by 2-4 points.

If a student is struggling to reach their target score even after dedicated test prep, there might be a different conversation around submitting scores to test optional schools. But before you or your student make that decision, let’s talk.

We have plenty of tricks up our sleeves for guiding students through the college admissions process and are always happy to help!

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