With more announcements this week regarding standardized testing, it might be interesting to discuss what these changes mean for students in the next application round.
These tests have not been revised or updated in at least a decade, and there are only three (3) colleges that currently require subject tests. Cal Tech, a premier engineering school, announced that they no longer require these tests for admissions. Obviously, the importance of these tests is waning, and so the question is: when is it advisable to take and submit these tests?
If a student has a strong talent or keen interest in a subject area, demonstrating that through a subject test makes sense. These tests, though, are not in the “generic” battery of standardized tests for all students. If a student is interested in engineering, taking Math II (Math I is a repeat of the SAT math section) and a specific science is often recommended – and to be competitive in a competitive pool of applicants, it is wise to demonstrate proficiency through these tests. Finally, it is the prediction of many testing gurus that these tests will become extinct in the very near future.
Let’s be clear: “test optional” does not equate to “lesser college.” In fact, when exploring the rationale that a college gives for choosing this admissions option, the reasons always speak to proof that standardized testing does not correlate to student success at their institution. Furthermore, reading an application without standardized scores puts an emphasis on other factors, including a student’s longer-term achievements, persistence, commitment to activities and values. In the long run, these are factors that influence and impact campus life and an institution’s academic climate. Yes, there are some institutions that rely on scores because their enrollment models reflect some kind of correlation (Clemson, for example), but consider those colleges that give students the option of submitting scores (JMU, Brandeis, University of Chicago, Indiana Bloomington, Fordham, and a host of small liberal arts colleges). No lack of quality here!
If a student is choosing not to submit standardized test scores, the application must tell a clear and compelling story that reflects those factors. An application that does not highlight involvement or commitment to a life outside of the classroom in some way is, simply, lacking.
What’s up with the ACT?
As of next September, the ACT will allow students to re-take sections of the test after first taking a complete test. When evaluating section scores, colleges will not recalculate a composite score, though they will acknowledge and incorporate the retested section in their evaluation of a student. Confusing, I know, and here is a piece by Applerouth Test Prep that explains the implications. Frankly, without a new composite, the benefit to students is questionable. Here’s an opinion piece on these and other changes.
An Unexplained Drop in PSAT Scores
The College Board has been asked to explain a drop in 2019 PSAT scores. Questions regarding this phenomenon and how it may affect National Merit scoring as well as current SAT scoring are circling around the testing community. Here, Compass Education Group offers some insight.
The “skinny” on all this news? Stay informed, use testing (or a lack of testing) to your advantage, and choose the options that are right for you and your strengths!