How Colleges Use Standardized Testing in a Test-Optional World

April 24, 2023
College Admissions

Over the past few years, an increasing number of colleges and universities have adopted test-optional policies, meaning that applicants are not required to submit standardized test scores (such as the SAT or ACT) as part of their application. This shift has been driven by a number of factors, including concerns about the equity of standardized testing, as well as the recognition that test scores are not always the best predictor of a student's potential for success in college.

Despite this trend, many colleges continue to use standardized testing in various ways, even if they do not require scores from all applicants. Some of the ways that colleges may use standardized testing in a test-optional world include:

To evaluate students who choose to submit scores

Although many students may opt not to submit their standardized test scores, some still choose to do so. In these cases, colleges may use test scores as one factor in evaluating these applicants, alongside other application materials like transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation.

To award merit-based scholarships

Even if a college does not require standardized test scores for admission, it may still use them to determine eligibility for merit-based scholarships. This is because test scores can be an indicator of academic ability and potential, and colleges want to attract high-achieving students who will contribute to the academic community.

To inform curriculum development and academic support

Even if a college does not require standardized test scores for admission or scholarship consideration, they may still use them as a diagnostic tool to understand the academic strengths and weaknesses of their students. This information can then be used to develop academic support programs and to inform curriculum development.

Overall, while the trend toward test-optional policies may seem like a rejection of standardized testing, many colleges are still finding ways to use test scores. By considering standardized test scores alongside other factors and using them to inform academic support programs and curriculum development, colleges can ensure that they are using these scores in a way that truly benefits their students.