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A Lesson in Standardized Testing

Maryline Michel Kulewicz and Tracy Sullivan of College 101 Admissions Consultants

We receive many questions about standardized testing from our students - Do I need to take the ACT or SAT test? Do I have to submit my test scores to all of the colleges? How do I prepare for the test?  Being knowledgeable about test options, college test policies, and the benefits of testing can help to simplify the process.  

The ACT and SAT are the most commonly used standardized tests in the United States. Colleges that consider test scores will accept either exam. Colleges will have one of the following test policies: “testing-required” where applicants are required to submit either an ACT or SAT score; “test-blind” does not consider applicant test scores, even if the scores are submitted; and “test-optional” where applicants can decide whether or not to submit their test scores. In the case of test-optional, students need to consider if the test score is a true representation of their academic ability.  

At College 101, we do not believe that a student’s standardized test score is a reliable measure of the student’s future success. Test scores provide an additional piece of information in the student’s application review. However, we do believe that standardized testing can be valuable, and we recommend that our students prepare for either the ACT or SAT exam through a planned test prep schedule. Students should also register for the junior year spring test exam (SAT or ACT), and then assess whether to submit their test scores or not, and to which colleges.  

 Benefits of Test Prep and Taking the Exam:

1. Preparing for standardized exams can also enhance a student’s high school performance.  Our colleagues, Jeanne and Jeanine, co-owners of, tell their students “we do not teach tricks—we focus on skills: reading comprehension, grammar, a solid math review, and logic via charts, graphs, and data representation.  All of this knowledge is useful not only for standardized testing but also for high school and college courses.” 

2. If a student does not submit their test scores, greater weight is placed on other factors of their application that include grades, course rigor, essay, extracurricular activities and letters of recommendation. A test score can be helpful if one part of the student’s application is not as strong.

3. Approximately 80% of colleges have test-optional policies, but taking the ACT or SAT exam can prepare a student if one of the college applications requires a test score. 

4. In recent months, there has been an ongoing conversation about grade inflation.   Providing a strong test score can serve  as a confirmation of the student’s academic performance. 

5. Several scholarship opportunities will use standardized test scores for eligibility. One example is the PSAT National Merit competition which recognizes the top test scoring students in each state with a $2500 merit scholarship.  

6. Submitting test scores can also assist students from underprivileged backgrounds. In a recent conversation with Mike Bergin, President of Chariot Learning, he stated “The Dean of Admissions at Dartmouth College recently commented about the undesirable data deficit when scores are held back; while the school’s President commented that diversity actually went down because students held back scores that would have helped them stand out, even if those scores were below the college’s average scores”.

7. The average test score has increased in recent years at test-optional colleges as students usually only submit strong test scores. When should a student submit test scores?  According to Mike Bergin, “any score at the 25th percentile of the school’s middle 50% average is probably worth submitting. If an applicant has doubts about whether to submit a score to a test optional school, reaching out to the college’s admissions department with specific questions often leads to a clarifying conversation.”

Good luck and enjoy the journey!   

College 101 Admissions Consultants LLC.

Website:  Email: [email protected]. Phone: (508) 380-3845.


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