Should You Go Test-Optional?

More colleges than ever before are allowing incoming students to apply without submitting standardized test scores such as SAT or ACT. If you’re unsure whether to go test-optional for your dream universities, know that you’re not alone. The college admissions process can be arduous, but looking at both sides can help you decide which path is right for you. These are the most impactful benefits and drawbacks of going test-optional. Make your choice with a well-informed mindset by reading on.

Should you apply test-optional or should you submit your test scores?

When to Give Your Scores

Although many universities are removing mandatory test score submissions, there are some cases where it is reasonable or even advantageous to provide them.

  • Your scores show your excellence. College applications are a way to demonstrate to the admissions office that you are fit for the school. You should submit your scores if they are above the threshold for the average test score for admission to the school. If you are not sure what that number is for a specific school, you can view their admissions page on their website. For most popular schools, a simple online search will give you the answer.
  • Your scores are higher than your GPA. All students learn in different ways, so some are much better test-takers than others. Send your test scores if they are significantly higher than your GPA or transcript course grades. Doing so will allow schools to see a different side of your academic skill.
  • Your scores make you eligible for merits and honors. For some schools, test scores go beyond the application process. Universities may offer various scholarships for achieving high standardized testing scores, which can be very helpful for mitigating college debt. If you believe that you are eligible for such merits and awards, it is in your best interest to submit your scores.

When to Go Test-Optional

Although submitting your test scores might seem like the best choice to make, especially with all of the described benefits, there are instances where it is best to take advantage of the test-optional system. 

  • You’ll save money and stress. Standardized testing is not an easy task. You may spend weeks or even months preparing for these exams, and the workload may get to your head. Also, if you’re aiming for exceptional results, you may need to pay for exam preparatory courses and tests. Some SAT and ACT prep courses cost hundreds of dollars, so going test-optional will save time, money, and stress if you choose not to take a standardized exam.
  • You have a strong GPA or resume. If you’ve taken an SAT or ACT exam and were disappointed by the results, going test-optional is the perfect path for you. Colleges will not question why you did not submit your scores, and they certainly will not assume anything. Leaving your scores out gives more spotlight for your other clubs or activities on your application. Be sure that you display your distinction in other areas, whether academic or extracurricular.

The Impact of COVID

Finally, the COVID pandemic has affected test-taking. In many areas, test-taking for the SAT and ACT have become limited or removed entirely. Make sure to reflect that lack of opportunity if that situation sounds familiar. Several schools incorporate a section for students to detail how the pandemic has impacted their lives and well-being. If your dream school is using this prompt, take advantage of this section to indicate any pitfalls you have encountered throughout the year that have affected your ability to take a standardized test or anything else.

Overall, the decision of whether or not to go test-optional is yours to make. Friends and family all have differing opinions, but you must choose what best reflects your interests. Some pros and cons come with each side, and you can even compromise by going test-optional for some schools or only submitting test scores that will maximize your chances of acceptance to others. If, after reading this, you have decided to take a standardized test, Curvebreakers offers SAT Prep and ACT Prep courses that will accelerate your learning and help you earn the score you need. Either way, refer to this blog to make sure you are on the right track to completing the college admission process.

Decided to submit your scores?

Check out our self-study “YouTube-style” Strategy Accelerator Courses for the SAT and the ACT.