“To Test or Not to Test” as the SAT and ACT make a Comeback

At the end of 2023, we noted in our 2024 College Admission Trends and Predictions that “even in the current, widely test-optional admissions landscape, testing continues to occupy a lot of real estate in each student’s mind as they consider and plan their application process.” Now, with several colleges again requiring testing in some form or another (Dartmouth, Yale, Brown, for example), advising students on this aspect of their college process will need to be tailored to suit each student.  

Among the considerations are:

  • Which test to take (ACT vs. SAT)
  • Which dates to sit for the exams 
  • How many times to take the test 
  • Where to send scores for Test-Optional schools
  • Whether to simply go Test Optional across the board

However, these cannot be the only factors.  Understanding the student’s aspirations, knowing their current academic program, and recognizing their bandwidth and level of anxiety inform how we advise our students.  Ultimately, standardized testing will “occupy a lot of real estate in each student’s mind”; however, we do not want it to dominate the college journey.  Colleges may return to testing as part of their application process but will not use it as their only evaluative measure.  Dartmouth states, ”Reinstating our testing requirement (which considers scores as one of many factors within our broader understanding of a candidate’s application…) allows us to use all of the data at our disposal…to admit and support the broadest and most talented student body possible.”  

Bottom line: We generally advise our students to try mock or practice tests, and if they are good testers, we want to leverage that strength. But it depends on the individual students. And we will continue to advise our students not to lose sight of the fact that these many other factors still have significance.

About The Author

Peter Olrich, MBA