With undergraduate colleges going test optional for the 2021 application and now some extending that even for the 2022 application year, the students are in a dilemma about the choice. In this blog I plan to demystify the options and hopefully help the students in making an informed decision.
Firstly let us understand the difference between ‘Test optional ‘ and ‘Test blind’.
Test optional – the schools do not insist on a test score from the student. If a student does submit a score it will be considered, but for any reason a student is unable to take the test and therefore cant submit a score, the college will look into the various other academic records to check for college readiness. The student not submitting the test score will not be disadvantaged in any manner.
Test blind or Score-free – the college will not be considering test scores from any student. Even if a student does submit a test score it will not be considered by the college.
Which student should take the test and who should go test optional –
Strong academic student and strong test taker – if you are an academically strong student and are comfortable with standardised tests, please go ahead and take it. Make the right choice between the SAT or ACT and take the test. A high score will never go unnoticed by the admission committee. The only instance in which a high test score would not be considered is if the college decides to go ‘test blind’.
Strong academic student but weak test taker – if you are a strong academic student but are not comfortable with standardised tests, it still makes sense to go ahead and take the test. The fear or discomfort of testing can easily be overcome with the right coaching and guidance. The strong academic profile along with a high test score is always impressive. Start the test prep in an organised manner with a regular schedule and remember the test prep mantra -practice, practice, practice!
Average to low academic ability – if you are an average to low academic student, it makes sense to concentrate on your school grades and work hard on those. You can go ahead and take a few practice SAT or ACT tests to see your comfort level, if you then feel its something you can manage, go ahead and take the test. You can always choose not to report your score if its lies below the average score required by the college you are applying to, and if its higher then send across the score. The choice is yours!
Why is it important for international students to take the test?
The colleges are going test optional and giving the students a choice. If the student doesn’t feel safe to go to a test centre or doesn’t have a test centre within the city he resides in, he can choose not to take the test. The college will then look at the other academic records submitted. The problem with this is, how does a college decide between two students who have both received an ‘A’ grade – it will then consider how rigorous and challenging is the school curriculum and compares that student with others students who came from the same school in the past. This is easy with US schools which the admission committees are familiar with. What about international schools that the committee aren’t familiar with – this is where the standardised tests help. The SAT or ACT gives them a measuring stick to grade the college readiness of a student through a common platform. With a lack of such a platform it will be difficult to gauge the level of a student through purely school records as some schools may be slightly more competitive than others or some schools may be harsh on the grading system. A student who has the choice of taking the test should go ahead and take it, submitting the score to a test optional school will never be a negative. It will just give them a yardstick, one that they are familiar with, to compare students and choose the ones that are a perfect fit for their school.