September 30, 2020

About the Author:  Susan Powers is the founder of Woodlands Test Prep and a renowned test prep expert.  She focuses on delivering the most up to date testing information to students, taking both the SAT and ACT twice a year.

Test Optional: Does that mean I can skip taking the SAT or ACT?

Does “test optional” mean I can ignore taking these tests?

- Nope.  Let’s break down this topic into some manageable chunks.


• What does a “test optional” policy mean?  It means that schools don’t require test scores for a complete application.  This is in contrast to a “test blind” application policy where schools will specifically not consider your test scores even if you send them.  Given the Zombie Apocalypse that we are currently experiencing, many colleges have announced a change in their application policies for the class of 2021 to a test optional policy.  A few colleges have moved to a test blind policy.

• What happens when a college goes test optional?  Colleges experience at least two changes when they go test optional: average test scores rise and selectivity increases.  Average test scores rise because students who are lower-scoring do not report their scores, so their overall average rises for the incoming class.  Selectivity rises because students (incorrectly) perceive that it is easier to be accepted and more students apply.  The college’s acceptance rate drops, increasing the school’s selectivity.  Both of these changes benefit the college, not the student.  In some cases, students also benefit from these policies, although that isn’t clear across the board.  Test optional does create a new avenue for students who truly struggle with standardized testing; however, schools still value test scores as validation of grades and transcripts.  In other words, while it may be easier to apply, it is *not* easier to be admitted.  

• But what about during the Zombie Apocalypse?  It is quite possible that test scores will, ironically, be more important for the class of 2021 because of the erratic nature of this past semester’s grading.  Schools across the nation have implemented wildly differing policies for conferring semester grades: give everyone an “A,” pass/fail, completion grades only, use grades as of school disbanding.  Colleges will have a great deal of difficulty deciphering what grades actually mean in that context.  Also, many summer internships, sports, performing arts, and other extracurricular activities have been cancelled.  All of this means that a solid test score may carry even more weight than usual.


As always, Woodlands Test Prep is here to help you think through what makes the best sense for you and your student.  Please let us know how we can help!