A History of Good Intentions . . .Or So We Thought ACT, SAT, Subject Tests . . . . . Test Optional, Test Flexible . . . HELP!

It’s 2019 and this article, published in 1996, still speaks to the quagmire that is college testing and how this continues to impact education and the college admission landscape. Over 900 colleges are now Test Optional or Test Flexible and the list is growing almost weekly thanks in part as a response to the recent scandals at testing sites domestically and internationally concerning security, compliance, credibility and ethics.

I find myself scratching my head and asking, How did we get here and what’s next? I have come to the realization that flux in the world of testing is perhaps the one constant in the college planning process. The role, components and parameters of college testing keep changing.

It also appears that College Board and ACT are acting like the Hatfields and McCoys, each fighting for market share and purporting to have a higher level of usability and access. College Board and ACT continue to duel to be more alike and different from one another, touting accessibility as one of the driving forces for change.

The changes that have occurred in the college testing landscape include test design, test dates, administration format (paper, computer), score comparability and score concordance values, among other components. I missed a few but you get the point. Now, the role of superscoring (choosing the best component score from multiple tests) for college admission has provided another change opportunity. The ACT has announced it will allow students to re-take sections singularly, following a first full test score. What does this mean? A student can choose to re-take any single section of the ACT to attempt to improve the score.

Now my mind is racing and I have to take a deep breath! Colleges and universities are also taking note and adjusting to the madness of testing, student anxiety and college admission. The response from over 900 colleges is to remove the requirement of submitting test scores for admission – becoming Test Optional. More and more colleges are now adding to this already impressive list (FairTest.org).

In becoming Test Optional, colleges are sending a clear signal the admission process will become more holistic, seriously considering the weight of grades, course selection, activities/interests, letters of recommendation and writing (Personal Statement and supplemental essays) as a collective body of evidence in the candidacy of a student. Interviews may also increase in relevance. Even colleges that require test scores are promoting their application process as holistic in nature, which does restore some faith in the belief that students do matter.

In our work at McMillan Education, we continue to subscribe to the belief that as things change, we need to be nimble and forward-thinking in our work toward finding a best-fit college for our students. Balancing the requirements in college applications while revealing the qualities and characteristics, which make each student unique, is essential and can still be achieved with mindful planning.


  1. Be assured there is a best-fit college for your child
  2. Embrace the strengths and qualities unique to your child and grow them
  3. Balance academic and life demands (sports, family, interests) in support of student (and family) well-being
  4. Continue to have your child explore and pursue different interests and passions
  5. Create a strategy and timeline for the process
  6. Understand there is no ONE way to find the best-fit college
  7. Let us help guide you through the changing and challenging landscape of college planning.

Review of testing history:

  • 1845 Entrance exams into Boston Public Schools
  • 1899 The College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB) founded at Columbia University
  • 1920’s College Board College Entrance Exams
  • 1960’s federal government started pushing new achievement tests designed to evaluate instructional methods and schools
  • 2014 College Board announces a redesign for the SAT
  • 2018 Computer-based ACT test administration internationally
  • 2019 Varsity Blues Scandal (college testing fraud)
  • 2019 SAT test scores canceled for test security-related reasons
  • 2019 ACT announces re-test options by section

About The Author

Kim Chorosiewski, Ed.D., CSCS, CMAA