For years, the terms ACT and SAT have been synonymous with college entry preparation. Potential undergraduates knew that at least one of these standardized tests would be part of their application process, and preparation often began early for getting the highest possible score to unlock scholarship opportunities and give them the best shot at their dream school.
You’ve likely seen headlines about changes to these tests and may have found your head spinning a bit to keep up with them all. Standardized testing as a whole has been under intense scrutiny in recent years, and the experts behind the two more popular tests for college-bound students have been adjusting to keep up.
What’s changed, and what does it mean for you? Let’s take a closer look.
No More SAT Subject Test or Writing Test
One change you should be aware of is the elimination of the SAT Subject Tests and Writing portion. As The New York Times reports, these previously optional portions of the SAT are no longer available.
The reason? AP tests within subjects have become much more widespread and most colleges prefer student writing samples to a standardized essay that may not represent their true writing abilities. In other words, both portions seemed redundant and just caused extra hassle for both students and admission boards.
What does it mean for you?
The General SAT was always the core part of the test, so eliminating these optional portions shouldn’t have much impact on how you prepare or think about the test.
It does mean that you may want to make sure you have writing samples and pay extra attention to requirements around subject-level and writing abilities on your applications.
SAT and ACT Requirements Waived at Many Schools
Another big change you may have heard about is that — during the pandemic — many schools simply waived the requirement to take either the ACT or the SAT. There have been rumors and discussions about whether these changes will be permanent, and they likely will hold for at least some schools. However, this week, MIT announced they would be reinstating their score requirement policy after initially waiving the requirement during the height of COVID.
What does it mean for you?
It’s important to remember that just because SAT and ACT scores are not required does not mean they are not allowed and encouraged. In fact, submitting SAT or ACT scores to help round out your application — especially if they’ll help you demonstrate an aptitude that is not otherwise showcased — is a clear and direct way to improve your chances of acceptance.
If the schools you are applying to do not require the SAT or ACT, they are likely still optional parts of your application. It’s worth considering how they may help you portray yourself in the best academic light.
Score Choice and Superscore
You may have heard the terms “Score Choice” and “Superscore” as you’ve been getting your applications ready. It’s important to know the difference between these and what they mean for your application.
What is a Superscore?
The ACT has recently implemented a Superscore and the SAT has one as well.
Simply put, this is a composite score based on your best score in each section across multiple attempts at the test. While the ACT/SAT boards cannot require colleges and universities to accept the Superscore over an individual test score, they do encourage it and point out that it’s based in best practices and research. Many colleges will likely be using Superscores, which gives applicants the chance to put their best scores forward.
What is Score Choice?
Score Choice is the mechanism by which you submit your top scores to a school for consideration during the application process.
The reporting option is part of the College Board, and — for schools that have chosen to use Score Choice — it allows applicants to self-report their best scores in order to provide the most positive reflection on their abilities.
Standardized Tests Still Serve a Function
With all the talk of the changes and criticisms of standardized tests, it can be confusing to know what to do. Do you even need to take these tests? Is it worth it to prep for them?
The answers are highly dependent on your personal application strength and the requirements of the schools you’re considering.
However, the bottom line is that the ACT and SAT still serve an important function in most applications. These tests are becoming more flexible to allow students to put their best foot forward and showcase their top scores, and that flexibility demonstrates their continued relevance in the face of these conversations about the nature of testing as a whole.
SAT or ACT scores will continue to be factors in scholarships and admissions, and students should familiarize themselves with the test and its procedures to open the most doors for their college-bound future.