Category Archives: SAT and ACT FAQ

19 Jan 2021

College Board Ends the SAT Subject Tests

***This post reflects recently announced news and will be updated as more information becomes available.***

Today, College Board announced that it is eliminating the SAT Subject Test program. At Sentia, we had our suspicions that this change might be imminent; in the past several days our students have had difficulty registering for these exams on College Board’s website. In a closed webinar scheduled for today, we anticipate that the College Board CEO will deliver more details on the change. 

Additionally, the Essay section of the SAT will be eliminated. This change will be less profound for our students as most colleges have de-emphasized the importance of the Writing sections of both the ACT and SAT. Indeed, we anticipate that ACT will follow suit and likely eliminate their essay component in the coming 18 months. 

SAT Subject Tests have long been an important component of many of Sentia’s students’ application portfolios. While their demise – and the sudden rollout of these changes – will be distressing to some students, there remain several other means by which students who aspire to attend competitive colleges can stand out.

SAT and ACT scores will begin to hold more weight in the admissions process. With exceptional tutoring and sufficient tutorial planning, this change will allow our students to spend their preparation time focusing on one exam, rather than splitting time in the spring of Junior year between the ACT or SAT and two to three Subject Tests.

Grades, of course, become even more important when other components of an application dossier are eliminated. For most students, that means that judicious and appropriate academic support is more important than ever. Our teachers and academic mentors are well-equipped to ethically and efficiently ensure Sentia’s students are fully prepared to excel in their assessments – quizzes, exams, papers, projects, and take-home tests. 

What other ways can students stand out? At Sentia, we have long taken an approach that emphasizes academic mentorship, not just tutoring. After all, our motto is: At Sentia, we don’t just tutor; we’ll be with you every step of the way™. Our students work with their Sentia mentors to perform independent research papers ready for peer review, build inventions that win science competitions, start volunteer programs that transform lives, and learn curricula that far surpasses what’s offered at their schools. 


FAQs:

So, I can’t take Subject Tests?

Right. All Subject Tests (with the exception of the May and June 2021 administrations for international students) have been canceled. Students in the U.S. who registered for the May and/or June 2021 Subject Tests will automatically receive a refund. If you’d like to arrange for your fee to be credited towards a future SAT administration, you can contact College Board Customer Service at +1 (212) 713-7789 or sat@info.collegeboard.org

My dream school still says it highly recommends two Subject Tests. Wait, Georgetown still says it wants three!

Believe it or not, our friends at admissions offices at top colleges weren’t all given a heads up on this change. Students in the class of 2022 are likely to receive confusing information for a while. Will the tests you’ve already taken this year be evaluated as part of the admissions process? How about that Bio score from freshman year? The short answer is: we don’t know yet. Your scores may still be a part of your application or schools may go “test blind” on Subject Tests (meaning they will not look at them, even if submitted).

My child is homeschooled. Help!

Our homeschooled students who work with Sentia academic mentors and tutors will likely not welcome this news. SAT Subject Tests have long been a way for homeschooled students to stand out and demonstrate a wide range of deep knowledge. If your child is homeschooled, contact us so we can collaborate on a plan to ensure your child remains competitive in the admissions processes at top colleges and universities. 

My child goes to school in the United States and is applying to Oxford and Cambridge. What do I do?

Many students applying to schools abroad have used Subject Tests to meet application requirements. Some schools, such as Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh, have long preferred AP exams to demonstrate knowledge. We anticipate that AP exams will become even more important – and perhaps required – in these admissions processes. If you aren’t currently planning to take AP exams, contact Sentia. We will likely need to revise your strategy.

My school doesn’t offer AP exams though. What do I do?

College Board’s elimination of the SAT Subject Tests will allow College Board to assign greater resources to its Common Core planning and thus its AP curriculum. For students whose schools do not offer most – or any – AP exams, this change is challenging. We regularly assist our students in registering for AP exams not offered at their schools as well as mentorship to supplement their in-class learning with the material necessary to excel on those exams. We anticipate that in the absence of Subject Tests, greater emphasis will be placed on finding ways for U.S. students to take AP exams. At Sentia, we are committed to working closely with our students to ensure AP exam access and comprehensive preparation. The deadline to register for a May exam has been pushed back to March 12th. Please contact us ASAP so we can help outline a plan for any student who would like to pivot from Subject Tests to AP exams. 

AP exams have, in fact, been on the rise as Subject Tests have become less widely used. We’ve seen this trend strengthen over the past 20 years. Take a look for yourself:

This focus on AP exams is the most notable change, perhaps more so than the elimination of a test that only the most competitive students completed. College Board will create (and, yes, sell) more AP exams than ever before. These exams will likely become vastly more important in the college admissions process and yet they are not offered at many high schools throughout the United States or globally. Our students who attend elite boarding and day schools that do not operate on the Common Core curriculum will need to find new and creative ways to demonstrate their knowledge. 

Do I need to take the SAT Essay if I’m signed up for the essay component? Should I skip the essay part? 

We do not anticipate the essay component will be a relevant factor in admissions decisions going forward. If you’d like to adjust your reservation to SAT without Essay, you should contact College Board to do so. 

Rest assured that we will work collaboratively with your family to ensure this testing disruption does not leave your child at a disadvantage. At Sentia, we remain as committed as ever to assisting our students and families in navigating the dynamic and ever-changing world of learning and testing. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns; we welcome the opportunity to provide your family with the individualized, professional guidance and support you’ll need in the wake of this change.

13 Jan 2021

ACT Computer-Based Test, US Rollout

We hope everyone is staying safe, healthy, and enjoying the start of the new year! 

To bring everyone up-to-date on a bit of exciting news in the test prep world, the launch of the computer-based version of the ACT in the US is fast-approaching. Amidst the COVID crisis, computer-based testing has gained popularity and is quickly becoming the norm. Historically, ACT has been a trail-blazer in the transition to computer-based testing. In 2018, ACT transitioned international students from paper to computer-based tests (CBT). Now, the ACT CBT rollout in the US is imminent. We’d like to provide some information about how this changes the game for ACT test-takers and tips for ensuring a smooth transition to the CBT. 

Mastery of both content and format are crucial to success on the ACT. While the content and structure of the computer-based ACT will remain the same as the traditional paper version, familiarity with the new digital format will be essential before Test Day. 

Most notably, perhaps, is the introduction of several on-screen tools including a highlighter, answer eliminator (to cross out answers), answer masker (to hide answer choices in order to avoid distractions), line reader (to focus on a single line and block out surrounding lines), and magnifier (to enlarge part of a graph or image). Though students taking the CBT will not be able take notes directly on the test booklet, as is the case with the paper test, they will be provided with a separate whiteboard at the test center for notetaking and scratch work. Additionally, students taking the CBT will only see one question per page, which will make it slightly more challenging for students to answer questions out of order and make quick guesses at the end of a section.

We are confident that all of our ACT tutors are well-equipped to incorporate CBT strategies into their students’ test prep. We will continue to keep everyone updated as ACT provides a clearer timeline for the CBT rollout in the US. 

In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns regarding test prep, academic support, or anything in between. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

09 Dec 2020

ACT Writing: To Take or Not To Take?

As more and more students opt to take the ACT, the “ACT Plus Writing” has become a well-known alternative to the “SAT With Essay.” But, we think the ACT Writing Test is still shrouded in a bit of mystery. Who requires ACT Writing and how heavily weighted is it when in the hands of a college admissions committee? Here, we will break down what exactly is the ACT Writing Test, which schools require it (hint: very few), and how to decide whether you should take it. Read on!

What is the ACT Writing Test? 

The ACT Writing Test is an optional 40-minute essay section that students can take immediately after completing the other sections of the ACT. It’s available to test-takers on all national ACT testing dates in the United States. It costs an additional $16. It’s important to note that you cannot take the ACT Writing Test on its own; you can only take it after completing the full ACT exam. 

The Writing Test is designed to measure the writing skills that are typically taught in high school English classes and, supposedly, indicate how you might perform in an entry-level composition class in college. 

The Writing Test is evaluated by two graders who each score your essay on a scale of 1-6 in four domains, giving scores out of 12 for each domain. Your score is then calculated by averaging those four domain scores, producing a total ACT Writing score from 2-12. Next, the ACT combines your essay score with your English and Reading sections score and averages them to give you an English Language Arts (ELA) subscore between 1 and 36. Though the Writing Test does provide additional information about your writing ability (under very specific, somewhat stressful conditions), your ACT Writing score is not factored into your composite ACT score. 

Which schools require ACT Writing?  

In recent years, many schools that previously required ACT Writing have decided to make the section optional. Some schools have even made the decision to stop reviewing the Writing score altogether, even if students do take it and submit their score. 

Perhaps surprisingly, most top schools do not require ACT Writing! Many top-tier colleges including Harvard, Yale, Duke, Princeton, and Brown have all stopped requiring ACT writing over the past several years. In fact, none of the Ivy League schools require ACT Writing currently. As of Fall 2020, only 12 schools in the US still require the ACT with Writing.

There are several schools that still recommend, but do not require, ACT Writing. Yale, Tulane, Amherst, University of Michigan, Middlebury, and Lehigh all fall under this category.

Should I take it? 

So, it seems as though very few programs — and no highly selective programs — are actually requiring ACT Writing these days. What does this mean for test-takers debating whether or not to take the ACT Writing Test? While most schools no longer require ACT Writing, it’s still recommended for many schools if you can do well on it. 

It is essential to understand the testing requirements and preferences of the programs to which you are applying. If any of the schools on your list require the ACT Plus Writing (or make clear that they strongly recommend it), the decision has been made for you: take it! If not, the bottom line is this: a strong Writing score will almost always elevate your application. The ACT Writing Test can be an excellent way to showcase your stellar writing skills and give you an edge in the college admissions process!

If you are seeking support in preparing for the ACT Writing Test, or any other exam for that matter, we would be delighted to help. We wish everyone a happy finals season! As always, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

19 Nov 2020

Update on At-Home SAT / ACT Testing

Since the spring, there has been much speculation surrounding the launch of online versions of the SAT and ACT. With last-minute test center closings and the public health risks associated with in-person testing, at-home SAT / ACT alternatives would be a welcome relief to many. Many graduate school entrance exams, including the GRE, GMAT, and LSAT, successfully transitioned to an online, at-home format back in March. This transition did not come without its challenges. Proctoring, in particular, poses a unique challenge and has sparked significant public debate about the ethics and efficacy of automated proctoring services that are garnering more and more users during the pandemic. While many argue that web-based proctoring services are invasive and stress-inducing for test-takers, the College Board and ACT grapple with how to create accessible, cheat-proof, and glitch-free versions of their respective exams. 

As things stand now, ACT has indicated that students in the US can expect the release of an online ACT in late 2020 (any day now!) or early 2021. (The release seems unlikely before 2021). This version of the ACT is expected to look like the computer-based ACT that is currently offered to international students. The College Board, on the other hand, has not released any concrete information about when an online SAT might be available to the masses. They have cited internet access concerns as a central reason for the delayed rollout. For both exams, the technology requirements remain unknown. Unequal access to the technology required to take an online exam at home compounds the myriad of obstacles in making at-home SAT and ACT testing an equitable reality. 

As we all await official updates from the College Board and ACT, we’ve outlined a couple possibilities that have been raised:

Live proctoring – ACT and College Board both acknowledge that at-home testing will require proctoring on an unprecedented scale. ACT has been transparent about looking at several options, including the possibility of live proctoring for each full-length exam. This would require a webcam on each student for the duration of the exam. The College Board has not provided further details on how they plan to proctor at-home exams. 

Provisional score reports – The ACT has come forth with another option that would require students to take both an unproctored full-length exam and a shorter, live-proctored exam. With this option, students would receive a “provisional score report” for the full-length exam. In order to verify their provisional score, they would then take the short, proctored exam and the scores from each exam would be compared in order to eliminate or identify incongruencies in exam performance. It’s possible that this approach would inadvertently increase testing anxiety without providing a reliable means of verifying students’ skills. 

Perhaps, as at-home COVID testing becomes a more widespread reality, so too will at-home SAT and ACT testing. As always, we will stay up-to-date on the latest testing news as the pandemic progresses. Please stay tuned and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’re seeking additional support. We are always happy to help; we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

28 Oct 2020

Understanding Your SAT / ACT Scores

If you’ve recently taken the SAT or ACT, more likely than not you are anxiously awaiting your score report. Your score report will provide a lot of useful information about your exam performance, but interpreting SAT or ACT scores is not as easy as one might think. For those of you just embarking on your test prep journey, understanding how the scoring works for your exam of choice is essential to planning your test prep most effectively. 

It’s important to understand that scaled scores take into account the difficulty level of the specific exam that you took, recognizing that difficulty level may vary slightly from one version of the test to the next. ACT and College Board start by calculating your raw score for each section, which is simply the number of questions you answered correctly. The raw score is then converted into a scaled score. Both College Board and ACT utilize a process they refer to as “equating” when converting raw scores to scaled scores. College Board explains, “Equating makes sure that a score for a test taken on one date is equivalent to a score from another date… it’s important that the score a student receives on the SAT means the same regardless of when the student took the test. This ensures that there’s no advantage to taking the SAT during one administration versus another.” 

Contrary to popular belief, the SAT and ACT are not “graded on a curve” in the traditional sense. The process of equating ensures that a student’s score is based only on how they performed on test day and is never affected by another test-taker’s performance, according to College Board and ACT.

Scaled Scores on the ACT 

For the ACT, scaled scores are reported as a number out of 36. You will get a scaled score out of 36 for each of the four multiple-choice sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. Your composite score is the average of those four scaled scores. In other words, ACT adds up all four scaled scores and then divides that value by four. 

Scaled Scores on the SAT

College Board calculates verbal section scores differently than the math sections. You will receive scaled scores out of 40 for the reading and writing sections of the SAT. Your reading and writing scaled scores are then added together and multiplied by 10 to give you a scaled verbal score out of 800. 

Your raw scores for the two math sections (No Calculator and Calculator) are added together, giving your final math raw score. This combined raw math score is converted directly to a scaled score out of 800. 

Your scaled verbal and math scores are then added together to give you a total score out of 1600.

ACT Percentiles

Your percentile rank, distinct from your scaled scores, represents the percentage of students whose score is equal to or lower than yours. If you are in the 80th percentile, for example, this means that 80% of test-takers earned scores that were equivalent to or below your score. 

On the ACT, you’ll receive two separate percentiles: a US Rank and a State Rank. Simply put, these ranks represent the percentages of recent high school graduates in the US and recent graduates in your state who took the ACT and earned scores equal to or lower than yours.

For more information on scoring, you can check out the ACT website

SAT Percentiles

Two percentiles will show up on your SAT score report. The Nationally Representative Sample Percentile indicates where you stand compared to all 11th and 12th grade students in the US, including those who did not even take the SAT. The SAT User Percentile indicates how you scored compared to students in the past three graduating classes who took the current SAT during high school. 

College Board provides a detailed breakdown of the SAT Score Report. You can check it out here.

As you can see, there is no “passing” or “failing” when it comes to the SAT or ACT. However, it is essential to understand how you will be scored on these tests in order to make an informed decision about which exam will play to your strengths and how to construct a test prep plan that addresses your weaknesses. If you are seeking guidance in this process, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

16 Oct 2020

The State of ACT / SAT Testing Amidst COVID

As COVID cases spike once again in the US, the ACT and College Board continue to adapt to the ever-evolving situation. This means more test cancellations and general unrest surrounding SAT and ACT administrations. Back in late September, of the 334,000 students registered to take the SAT, about 183,000 of those students were unable to test. Of the 363,000 registered to take the SAT or SAT Subject Tests in early October, 154,000 were unable to do so due to test center cancellations. We expect the gap between the number of test registrations and tests successfully taken to continue to widen as we move into late October. 

If you are planning to test in the near future, it is more important than ever to stay up to date on cancellations in your area and we want to help you do that. Read on for a few ways to stay up to date on cancellations for the SAT and ACT. 

SAT Cancellations

As we noted in a blog post back in August, the College Board continues to reiterate that individual test centers decide whether or not to administer the SAT, pending local public health guidelines, which could mean unexpected test cancellations right up until test day. 

College Board suggests that students frequently check their email as well as the test center closure page before and on test day to confirm their center is in fact open. College Board notes, “Test centers may have closed or rescheduled to a makeup date at the last minute even if there is still an active admission ticket. If this happens, students will be notified that they shouldn’t report to their test center, and they’ll receive a follow up notification after the test day to confirm whether a makeup is available or if they will receive a refund.”

ACT Cancellations

Similarly, the ACT acknowledges “continued limitations in test center capacity and inevitable cancellations” throughout the remainder of 2020-2021 test dates. Decisions to close test centers are made on a site-by-site basis by test center staff following CDC and local public health guidelines. 

If you are registered for an ACT test date, you can expect regular email updates from ACT Monday through Friday by 6pm CT regarding your registration. In addition to checking your email, be sure to check this list of cancelled test centers frequently. Scroll to the bottom of this list to find information regarding Rescheduled October National ACT Test Centers.

In short, test cancellations are skyrocketing as COVID cases continue to climb. We understand how unsettling this must be for those of you preparing to take the SAT / ACT and want to support you in your test preparation, even (and especially) amidst growing uncertainty. As always, we are here to help. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

09 Oct 2020

Self-Reporting SAT / ACT Scores: Why and How?

After months of studying for the SAT or ACT, carefully piecing together a strong college application, and crafting your college list, it’s important to ensure that your dream schools get a complete picture of who you are as an applicant. Your test scores are, of course, an important piece of the puzzle. But, did you know that not all schools require official score reports? In fact, there is a growing trend of schools allowing applicants to self-report their scores, only requiring an official score report if they choose to enroll. Let’s break down why self-reporting is an attractive option for many applicants and exactly how it works.

Why the trend towards self-reporting scores?

Between application fees, test registration fees, and official score report fees, the college application process is expensive and inaccessible to many. For students who take the SAT and/or ACT and apply to a dozen or more colleges, sending official score reports alone can cost hundreds of dollars. Self-reporting test scores, on the other hand, drastically reduces the cost associated with the application process. 

Self-reporting scores also eliminates any lag time between submitting your application and schools receiving your test scores. This means you can rest assured that schools will have access to your scores as soon as they receive your application. This is a plus for admissions officers as well because they can find all of your information — personal info, test scores, essays, etc. — in one convenient place.

Though some may be skeptical of self-reporting, there’s no way to inflate your test scores because if you are accepted and decide to enroll in a school, you will have to send an official score report to verify your scores prior to enrollment. If there’s a discrepancy between your self-reported scores and your official scores, your application will most likely be disqualified. 

How can I self-report my scores? 

It’s easy! In the Common Application, many schools have a question under the “Testing” tab asking if you’d like to self-report your scores. If so, you can manually type in your scores. Other colleges might ask you to self-report through their application system or by taking a screenshot of your online score report and sending that image in with your application. Whatever the protocol may be, these unofficial scores will be used for admissions purposes only. Upon acceptance and enrollment, you will be prompted to send in an official score report.

As self-reporting has become more popular over the past few years, so have test optional policies — especially in response to limited testing opportunities amidst the pandemic. Check out our past blog post for more information on the growing number of colleges with test optional policies. 

Regardless of how they get reported, solid test scores are an important part of an impressive college application. No matter what phase of test prep you’re in, we are always happy to help.  As always, at Sentia we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

08 Sep 2020

SAT Section 5: What is it?

There is much speculation surrounding the mysterious Section 5 of the SAT. Some students end up taking this fifth 20-minute section while others do not. Additionally, the content covered in this wildcard of a section can vary widely from test to test. Let’s demystify Section 5 by understanding its function, whether you can expect to see a Section 5 on your exam, and how the additional section will (or, more likely, will not) affect your score. 

What is the function of this section? 

Section 5 of the SAT is widely believed to be an experimental section, created as an opportunity for the College Board to pretest content, answer choices, and test question philosophies on a captive audience under test conditions. College Board has been persistently vague about this section, noting in the SAT Advising and Admission Handbook, “To allow for pretesting, some students taking the SAT with no Essay will take a fifth, 20-minute section. Any section of the SAT may contain both operational and pretest items.” 

Operational items are questions that count towards your score. Pretest items, on the other hand, are not scored and do not contribute to your score. College Board has been uncharacteristically opaque about whether or not this section counts towards students’ final scores. 

Will this section affect my score? 

Though the College Board has made it impossible to say with absolute certainty that the experimental Section 5 will not count towards your score, never in the history of the redesigned SAT has a question from anyone’s 5th section appeared in the scored Question-and-Answer Service sections that are sent back to students. All signs indicate that this section is unscored and exists primarily to test out future material. It is likely that the College Board is being vague on this point to ensure that students take the section seriously, in order to obtain the most accurate data possible. If students were certain that the section would not contribute to their scores, they may not give it their all (or skip it completely). 

Will I have to take the additional section? 

A close reading of the Spring and Summer 2019 The SAT and SAT Subject Tests Supervisor Manual reveals, “At some centers, certain administrations will include an additional 20-minute section to be completed by all SAT test takers, including students taking the SAT with Essay.” 

So, while it used to be the case that only students taking the SAT without the Essay could expect to see a Section 5, now those taking the SAT with Essay should not be surprised to encounter the experimental section either. Test takers with extended time, however, will not see a Section 5 on their exams. 

How will this experimental section affect my test prep? 

Showing up on Test Day knowing exactly what to expect is the best way to feel confident going into the SAT (or any exam for that matter). So, expecting to encounter a 20-minute section in Math, Reading, or Writing after the Math with Calculator section or the Essay is a good way to mentally prepare yourself and avoid unwelcome surprises. 

Though it seems unlikely that Section 5 will affect your score, it is not outside the realm of possibility. By continuing with your diligent test prep and taking every single question on your exam seriously, you will be set up for success on the SAT. 

We are always happy to answer questions and provide support for all aspects of the test preparation process. Especially during uncertain times such as these, we are here to help and ensure that your test prep goes as smoothly as possible. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

24 Jun 2020

ACT Updates: Additional Fall Test Dates

It’s been an eventful week for the ACT. Yesterday, ACT announced significant changes to the fall testing calendar in the US. They have added an additional test date in September, two additional test dates in October, and ACT has opened up Sunday testing (previously reserved for students with religious conflicts) to all students in both months. In this unprecedented move, ACT has dramatically increased access to testing across the country. In summary: 

September Test Dates: 

Saturday 9/12 

Sunday 9/13 – Now open to ALL students! 

Saturday 9/19 – NEW

October Test Dates: 

Saturday 10/10 – NEW 

Saturday 10/17 – NEW 

Saturday 10/24

Sunday 10/25 – Now open to ALL students! 

In the official announcement, ACT emphasizes their commitment to providing a safe, socially distanced testing experience while maximizing access to in-person testing. Important to note, however, is that not all locations will be offering these new test dates. ACT still has the task of convincing locations to open for testing on a site-by-site basis. In California and New York especially, where state laws limit the number of ACT test dates, there is still uncertainty on how widely available these new test dates will be. We may not know for sure where these test dates are available until registration opens in the last week of July. 

Also, please note: 

The new test dates do not seem to be available to students testing outside of the US. (The ACT did not mention any changes to the international testing calendar.)

There was no mention of how this expansion may affect students with special testing accommodations. 

In other news, on June 18th ACT announced that section retesting — originally planned for this fall — will be delayed until later in 2021 in order to increase testing capacity for those who need to take the full ACT test. Needless to say, testing this fall may look very different from the original plan. 

As always, we are happy to answer any questions, concerns, or provide guidance in adjusting to these recent changes. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us, we are here to help as we all navigate this challenging time.

17 Jun 2020

What to do when your dream school goes test optional…

If you’re in the midst of preparing for college applications, you’re probably already aware that many colleges across the country are switching gears to a “test optional” policy in response to the impact that COVID-19 has had on SAT / ACT scheduling and availability. A handful of schools were already “test blind” — but, please don’t mistake the two! Before you abandon your SAT / ACT study plans, it’s important to understand the difference between “test optional” and “test blind” in order to put together an application that holistically captures who you are as a student and as an individual. 

What’s the difference between “test blind” and “test optional”? 

When schools decide to go test optional, that does not mean that standardized test scores are taken out of the equation entirely — this is only true of test blind schools. Colleges that are test blind will not consider test scores during the admissions process even if a student submits scores. Test optional schools, on the other hand, will absolutely consider your test scores if you choose to submit them. 

If you’re putting together your college list, it’s important to get familiar with each school’s specific policy on submitting test scores because there are several variations on the test optional theme. Some schools are requiring additional short-answer questions or submission of an analytical paper in place of SAT / ACT scores. Others have decided to waive testing requirements only for students who meet a minimum GPA. Also important to note, some test optional schools may still require test scores for out-of-state students, international students, or students applying for certain scholarships. Be sure to read the fine print! Here you will find a list of all the colleges and universities that have opted to go test optional. 

What does this mean going forward?

Zooming out from the chaos of the past several months, a trend towards more flexibility within standardized testing requirements was set into motion several years before the onset of the pandemic. The barriers posed by COVID-19 have certainly fast-tracked the shift to test optional, but it’s likely that even as the world settles back into some version of “normal,” SAT / ACT requirements will continue to change or simply never return to pre-COVID policies. Some schools are running an experimental pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of test optional, while other schools are announcing a full transition to test optional. Many, of course, do plan to return to relying on test scores once testing scheduling and availability normalize. The outcome of this nationwide experiment — the success of incoming freshmen in the fall of 2021 — will inform admissions policies for years to come. 

So, should I still plan to take the SAT or ACT? 

Though the test optional surge may feel like a relief, in reality many of the schools that typically require SAT / ACT scores will likely still expect to receive scores from students who do have access to testing. Plus, strong scores will only strengthen your application and could be essential in making you stand out among your peers. Considering that many other application components, such as extracurriculars, work opportunities, and class grades, have been interrupted, the SAT or ACT could be an excellent opportunity to set yourself apart academically. 

Keep in mind that admissions officers will only spend a few minutes looking at your file during the initial review period. During this initial review, they are forced to make quick decisions, drawing conclusions about who you are from the materials that you provide in your application. Strong test scores can play a huge part in further solidifying your impression as a viable applicant whose profile aligns with pre-COVID admissions standards. So if you believe test scores could elevate your overall application, we highly recommend sticking to your original study plan and using this time to demonstrate your continued commitment and ability to succeed even in such tumultuous times. 


If you’d like more individualized guidance on how to achieve scores that will make your applications shine, we are here to help. Above all else, we hope you are staying safe and well. As always, at Sentia we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!