With an increasing number of colleges going test-optional, colleges are re-evaluating the role of the standardized tests.
You might be wondering – if it is safe to assume that they are no longer important?
Before you jump to conclusions, remember, test optional does not mean test blind. If these terms sound confusing to you, please refer to this blogpost clarifying these policies. There are very few colleges that have adopted a test blind policy and so for the majority of colleges, submitted test scores will still be considered as part of your application. A strong SAT or ACT score can help you stand out.
The next thing to keep in mind is that some of these changes in testing policies are temporary (applicable only for the Fall 2021 intake), and the mandatory submission of test scores will be reinstated once the pandemic subsides. So, if you are someone applying for the 2022 intake or beyond, do continue to plan ahead for these tests to have a wider range of college options.
Personally, I recommend all my students take either the SAT or the ACT. This is because the application requirements for international applicants is considerably higher than for local applicants. As long as colleges are not test blind, these scores will still be considered, and international applicants who have strong scores will presumably be at an advantage over international applicants who don’t. Having a standardized score simply makes it easier to compare students, and can also be used to see if they are at a similar or higher standard compared to applicants from previous years (in other words, the standard they are accustomed to seeing) on a country by country (or regional) basis.
For international applicants, the lack of an SAT/ACT (or some other standardized test) requirement might result in a less equal playing field, as universities may rely more on well-known feeder schools (often private international schools). These are schools where college officials have developed relationships with high school counselors and are aware of their context and credentials. However, given that colleges receive applications from all over the globe, it is impossible for colleges to be acquainted with all the different schools and countries. And so, standardized test scores presumably help show the academic potential of students from these unknown or less well known schools. At least they arguably help admissions committees compare applicants from schools with grade inflation, grade deflation, and varying levels of quality (in terms of resources, teachers, course offerings, etc).
Moreover, a strong standardized test score provides you an avenue to compensate for potential shortcomings in your academic profile. For instance, when evaluating two borderline applicants with similar high school grades and average profiles, the standardardized test score becomes a way to differentiate the two.
We highly recommend students planning to apply to the US to take either the SAT or ACT. If you are considering foregoing testing, do remember to carefully research the admissions policies at your schools of interest.