Explaining Test-Optional and Test-Blind College Admissions Policies

Over the past few months, many colleges and universities have announced test-optional policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Most are switching to test-optional for at least the coming year, while others have already implemented longer term plans including moving to test-blind policies over the next few years and even phasing out current standardized test scores.

WHAT IS TEST-OPTIONAL?

Test-optional policies means that students are not required to submit SAT/ACT scores for acceptance; the admissions committee will not reject a student for not submitting test scores. If scores are submitted, they will be used for admissions, scholarships, and course placement for students who attend.

  • Students decide if they want to submit scores
  • Schools use submitted scores in the decision process

WHAT IS TEST-BLIND?

Test-blind policies still give the student the option of submitting their SAT/ACT scores if they want, but those scores will not be used in admissions decisions. Submitted scores will be used only for scholarships and post-enrollment course placement.

  • Students are not required to submit scores
  • School do not consider any scores for admissions

IMPACT OF TEST-OPTIONAL

Under a test-optional policy, good scores still help your application. That’s worth repeating — good scores will help! If you’re applying to a competitive school, getting a strong score on a standardized test is essentially still a requirement. Most applicants to these schools will still submit SAT/ACT scores to gain a competitive edge over their peers.

Schools with test-optional policies will also likely see a higher average score for accepted students. Lower scores which bring down the average will no longer be submitted. SAT Subject scores are a good example of this — many subject tests are optional so typically only high-performing students take them and they typically score well. Half of all Math Level 11 test takers score a 730 or better; this pushes average scores way up.

As more and more students decide whether or not to submit scores, we expect to see more and more lower scores not being included. Ultimately, this means that you may need an even higher score than previously to really stand out.

COLLEGE ROADMAP

FRESHMAN

  • As a freshman, it’s good to understand admissions policies for standardized tests but it’s too early to know what the policies will be in a few years.

SOPHOMORE

  • Understanding test-optional and test-blind policies is important, but there’s no way to know what school policies will be in a few years.
  • Keep an eye on schools you’re interested in, but remember it can all change again!

JUNIOR

While you won’t be submitting apps this year, it’s important to understand score policies and to continue working hard prepping for the SAT or ACT.
High scores will still have a positive impact at most schools this year and that will likely remain the same next year.
Average scores at competitive schools will likely rise as low scores are no longer submitted.

SENIOR

  • Make sure you know the policies at the schools where you’re applying.
  • If a school is test-optional, the best option is to prep hard, get a great score, and submit it! Good test scores are still a key component of strong applications.
  • If you can’t take the test or don’t feel your score is strong enough, consider not submitting your score as allowed by school policies.
  • If COVID-19 affected your ability to take the test or score well, you will be able to explain your situation on the Common App.