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Is SAT/ACT on its way out? Should you still be taking standardized tests?

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By Tina Wu | Senior Admissions Counselor, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions

The COVID-19 outbreak has presented massive logistical challenges for rising seniors to take the SAT/ACT (kudos to those of you who already secured a test date in the Fall! ). Many, including students, parents, and college counseling professionals, have argued this pandemic will bring an end to the use of standardized testing in college admissions.

In particular, the University of California (UC) decided on a plan to phase out the SAT and ACT as requirements to apply. UC is home to some of the most popular and competitive colleges in the US, including UCLA and UC Berkeley.  

What’s actually in the UC proposal?

I have a handful of students telling me they would like to drop SAT/ACT prep this summer after reading “test-optional” coverage in the news. But are these headlines misleading?  

Let us look at the UC as a case study, and break down the administration’s plan to roll off SAT/ ACT:

  • For freshmen entering in 2021 and 2022, UC system become test optional.
  • For freshmen entering in 2023 and 2024, UC would be test blind for California residents. Out-of-state applicants could use the new test or the SAT/ACT.
  • For freshmen entering in 2025, a new admissions test would be created and used instead of the SAT and ACT. All California students would take the test to apply, and it would be made available to private schools and out-of-state schools to use. Nonresidents and international students could submit either SAT/ACT scores or scores on the new test.
  • If no new test is available by 2025, the state will go fully test blind and eliminate the role of standardized testing in admissions.

Let’s first understand the differences between test-optional and test-blind. Being test blind means a college would not consider SAT/ACT in its admission evaluation, even if the student submits the score. On the other hand, being test-optional means a school is merely waiving standardized tests as an admission requirement but still would consider the student’s SAT/ACT when submitted.

If we look at UC’s plans carefully, for application cycles 2021-25, UC would still consider the SAT/ACT scores submitted by International students/nonresidents.

What other schools are going test-optional?

As of June 15, 2020, Caltech is the only school in the top 20 US colleges with a test-blind policy for the upcoming admission cycles. Most of the top colleges have announced some form of test-optional plans, amongst which are the Ivy League schools: Havard, Dartmouth, Cornell, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Yale, and Brown.

Consider the differences between these two quotes, one from a test-blind school and another from a test-optional school :

  • Caltech: Caltech has enacted a two-year moratorium on both the requirement and consideration of SATand ACT scores as part of the undergraduate admissions process
  • Columbia: Due to ongoing standardized testing disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Columbia is adopting a one-year test-optional policy for first-year applicants to Columbia College or Columbia Engineering for the Fall of 2021. If students have completed testing and can submit SAT or ACT results, we encourage them to do so as we believe this information can be a valuable addition in our review process. However, testing is no longer a required component for the first-year 2020-2021 application cycle, and students who are unable or choose not to submit test scores will not be disadvantaged.

Should I drop my SAT/ACT prep?

Before deciding to drop your SAT/ ACT prep, I would urge families and students to research on the different testing polices- only a handful of schools are test-blind, some schools are test-optional, and some are test- flexible. In addition, many schools consider SAT/ACT scores when determining academic scholarship.

It is essential to pay attention to your year of application as well:  while some schools are waiving testing requirements for 1 year, others are wavering for 2 -3 years.

What’s the bottom line? To test-optional schools, good SAT/ACT scores still provide a valuable indication of a student’s academic abilities.

Still got questions about your SAT/ACT Plan? Reach out to Kaplan’s admissions counselors for a free consultation today.

Kaplan_Tina

Ms. Tina Wu

Senior Admissions Counselor

Member of NACAC

M.B.A., Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)

BSc. In Accounting and Finance, New York University – Stern School of Business

  • A passionate mentor to students
  • Emphasis on understanding and developing her students’ strengths, positioning their potential to admissions office in the best possible light
  • Over 10 years of experience in helping students gain admissions to top boarding schools and colleges in the U.S.
  • Matriculation includes: Cornell University, University of Michigan, NYU, University of Virginia, UCLA and UC Berkeley

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