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Rose Murphy: Changes in college admissions testing

Are the days of taking the SAT or ACT over? College-related news has recently focused on changes with admissions test requirements for four-year universities. How should a student who is planning to prepare themselves for college proceed?

The test-optional movement began before the pandemic. However, during the height of the pandemic, exam dates were canceled; test sites closed, and if they did re-open, they limited test-takers to accommodate social distancing. Many students were unable to sit for the required exams. Four-year institutions made temporary adjustments. However, Robert Schaeffer, interim executive director of FairTest, a National Center for Fair and Open Testing said, “ACT’s latest report accurately forecasts that a large majority of U.S. colleges and universities will remain ACT/SAT optional for the foreseeable future.”

The University of California system announced that they would be test-blind until 2024 while they evaluate optional assessments.



Wait! Test blind? How is that different than test-optional? The differences are significant.

Let’s discuss:




Test-optional colleges let the student decide if they want to submit their scores as part of their application. For those students who submit scores, the colleges will review them. They will, however, focus more heavily on other factors such as essays, letters of recommendations, activities, achievements, coursework and grades.

Test-blind colleges will not consider test scores for admissions, even if you submit them.

Test-flexible colleges let students submit Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam scores instead of the SAT or ACT.

The SAT Subject Test has been canceled in the U.S., the SAT Essay is no longer offered, and many colleges are considering using their own measures. There will be a slow rollout as we move forward. However, if you currently have a high schooler, I would advise that if they are thinking of a 4-year college, it is best to take either the SAT or ACT.

A number of colleges are requiring test scores for purposes outside of admissions. Many institutions use test scores for awarding merit scholarships. Also, some colleges require scores for out-of-state or international students, as well as those who are pursuing particular majors. Some schools use the scores for placement in certain freshman classes.

California State Universities (CSUs) have stated that they will use EAPs, or the Early Assessment Program, which are given to juniors in high school within a math or English-approved course. Check with your child’s school to see when this test is given, otherwise, the student may have to take another exam upon entry to college, which could be complicated.

For students who are not great test takers, or who have scores that do not accurately reflect their abilities as a student, they might consider applying to test-optional institutions. It would be important to look into the policy at the schools on your child’s list to discover their particular requirements.

For test-optional schools, it is recommended to send in assessment scores if a student is at the top 25% of accepted students’ scores from the previous year. If you are at or above the average scores of accepted students from the prior year, your score may help you stand out. If you do not submit your score because it is below the average of accepted students, focus on shining a light on the other aspects of the application.

Also, it is wise to practice, practice, practice before test day. Free full-length timed tests are available at kahnacademy.com, as well as on the SAT and ACT websites. Practice manuals are also available at your local libraries and bookstores. Taking rigorous classes in high school will prepare students as well.

Community colleges do not require the SAT or ACT to enter or to transfer to a 4-year college.

The SAT and ACT are currently taking registrations for late summer and fall exams. It is best to sign up early to get a spot.

In answer to the question in our first paragraph; no, the days of accepting the SAT or ACT are not currently over, but we are moving into an era of college admissions that may benefit students in the years to come.

I hope this has assisted in relieving some of the uncertainty about the differences between the current assessment movements in college admissions.

Rose Murphy is a retired high school counselor now working as an independent educational consultant. She can be reached at abestfitcollege@gmail.com or abestfitcollege.com


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