As a response to the challenges that students faced during the pandemic, many colleges and universities elected to allow students to apply on a ‘test optional’ basis. Their reasons for doing this were both unselfish and selfish – unselfish because students were having difficulty taking the ACT or SAT when test centers were closing unexpectedly, and selfish because going ‘test optional’ means that a school will attract more applications, and that improves a school’s standing in the annual US News and World Report rankings. Selectivity is the number one metric that US News uses to determine what schools are the best in the country, so attracting more student applications (and then rejecting those students) actually works in a school’s favor.
So why take the SAT or the ACT?
Both the SAT and the ACT are intended to provide students with a uniform exam they can take to assess their fitness for university level work. This becomes important when you consider the variability of high school experiences students have prior to entering college. Colleges admit students from home schools and international schools in addition to students from public and private schools.
Students who attend homeschools may be required to follow state-approved curriculum, or their families may have had greater freedom in their high school education. Students at international schools may receive instruction that emphasizes language learning or cultural immersion.
Private schools may follow religious teachings or have an especially selective curriculum. Even public schools in the same district may have completely different curriculums, down to textbooks used and books assigned.
The differentiation in high school experiences reveals the importance of standardized testing. It gives schools the option to invite in a neutral, third party assessment of a student’s performance level. Intended as an equalizer, standardized tests, like the ACT and SAT, still matter because of their usefulness in the college application process. The importance of standardized testing is in its purpose for leveling the playing field for all students to demonstrate their level of performance.
Colleges will continue to look at standardized test scores as a part of a student’s application well into the future, and many schools right now are beginning to move away from ‘test optional’ admissions. The SAT and ACT are a way for schools to set parameters of acceptance that keep their incoming classes high performing, capable, and ultimately, successful – and admissions officers know this.
The benefits of standardized testing are that they encourage objectivity, comparability, and accountability. One of the ways to be completely objective is to develop a neutral and impartial assessment measure that everyone must take. The SAT and ACT have both been developed over time by non-profit organizations who aimed specifically to address concerns of college admissions.
Submitting test scores gives students even more freedom to craft an application that will ensure their admission. Schools know it is important to help convey a student’s ability to perform, relative to other students who also might be applying for the same limited number of admission slots.
At Biltmore Tutoring, we will help students perform well on the ACT or SAT, and those top scores will help highlight a student’s already brilliant application.