Competitive Test-Optional Colleges Greatly Favor High-Scoring Applicants

A large majority of colleges are test-optional.

Excellent scores are an extremely valuable addition to your application, making you twice as likely to be admitted. Some top schools, including MIT and Georgetown, have recently reinstated test requirements.

Test-optional is not test-blind—test-blind schools, like UCs and CSUs, don’t consider test scores at all—test-optional schools accept them but don’t require them.

student taking standardized test

Four Reasons to Take Tests

1. Highly selective schools have become even more competitive

Since becoming test-optional, top schools have seen large increases in applicants and reduced admission rates. Many who wouldn’t apply due to low, or no, test scores are applying. However, top schools still choose the most highly qualified candidates—students who submit outstanding test scores are twice as likely to be admitted to highly competitive and competitive schools.

2. High scores can only help

Top scores provide a broader picture of your abilities, making you more competitive. Factors like GPA, difficulty of course load, and test scores are weighted with greatest consideration.

If you can do well on the ACT or SAT, you should take it. If you don’t achieve a good score, you don’t have to submit it, but if you do, it will make you a stronger applicant. For some, it might make sense to submit scores to some schools but not to others, depending on how your scores compare to those of recently admitted students.

3. Many sources of financial aid still require test scores.

Many merit-based scholarships, and some need-based ones, require standardized test scores. While most schools adopted test-optional policies for admissions, these may not extend to financial aid. Check with schools to learn their testing requirements for financial aid. High scores can open opportunities for financial aid that students couldn’t otherwise access.

4. Students gain valuable experience for future tests

Even if you don’t submit scores, taking tests is a great way to experience high-stakes, high-stress standardized tests. You will face them again during your studies, when applying to graduate and professional schools, and in your work. Learning to succeed on standardized tests is also invaluable practice for the demands of college courses—that’s why schools use them in admission and financial aid decisions.