Standardised Tests

Understanding Test-Optional Admissions

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During COVID19, nearly every US college and university began to offer a test-optional admissions policy. Many institutions have continued this policy, though several prominent institutions – including MIT and Georgetown – have returned to requiring SAT or ACT test scores as part of their application. For prospective students, particularly those from abroad, understanding this policy can make a significant difference in their application process. But what exactly does “test-optional” mean, and how does it affect UK students applying to US colleges and universities?

What are Test-Optional Admissions?
Test-optional admissions mean that students applying to a university or college are not required to submit standardized test scores – either the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) or ACT (American College Testing) – as part of their application. Though a small number of universities have always had test optional admissions, most implemented them during the COVID19 pandemic when students could not access test centres to sit the test. Note that this means that students CAN still elect to submit SAT or ACT scores. Admissions trends, since ‘test-optional’ was implemented more widely, show clearly that international applicants greatly aid their admissions chances by submitting strong SAT or ACT scores. For students who feel their test scores might not accurately represent their academic strengths, the test-optional policy allows them still to submit an application – though students should know that their application would be made stronger with a good test score.

Should I still sit the SAT or ACT?
Yes. A good SAT or ACT score provides a benchmark for admissions officers to better understand the applicant’s profile and standing among the applicant pool swiftly. It encourages them to give the student’s application a more thorough look, thereby increasing admissions chances. We encourage students to start their preparation early by sitting a practice test in both the SAT and ACT to see which test “personality” they prefer. Student can kickstart their test preparation journey by joining one of our SAT & ACT Bootcamps! Presented over five days, these intensive courses allow students to learn all the key test content and our proprietary techniques in small group setting with personalised instruction.

In Summary
Test-optional admissions have certainly changed the landscape of college admissions in the US, though we continue to recommend that international students help themselves to stand out by submitting strong scores. However, students should remember that these tests are just one piece of the admissions puzzle. Whether test-optional or not, universities look for well-rounded applicants who can demonstrate their potential to succeed both in and out of the classroom. Students should be sure to dedicate ample time to all elements of your application (including essays, activities, and letters of recommendation) and show your prospective colleges why you’d make a great addition to their campus.

As always, A-List Education is here to guide you through this process, providing the support and advice you need to make informed decisions about your academic future. To get the help of our team of experienced higher education consultants, please fill out the enquiry form below.

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