The Lowdown on “Test Optional” Schools

In recent years, an increasingly large number of schools are investigating and trying out test optional admissions processes. The term “test optional” covers an entire spectrum of policies adopted by schools, but generally means that one or more type of standardized testing is not factored into an admission decision. Instead, students can optionally choose to include their scores if they believe they build their application or demonstrate skills otherwise not denoted in a resume.

The list of tests now optional by many universities includes the SAT, SAT II, ACT, and AP tests. However, many universities have policies contingent on each applicant’s GPA, in-state and/or international status, and class rank among other factors. In addition, some schools require test scores but only use them for placement purposes rather than the admissions process. For example, some schools have adopted a “test flexible” status in which contacting or checking directly with the university is the best way to clarify their exact requirements. To see your potential school’s policies regarding testing, consult this list (hyperlink “this list” with: compiled by the Washington Post, current as of April 2017.

Test optional/flexible policies are geared towards students who may not feel as if their test scores are reflective of their academic ability, or who would just prefer not to be compelled to submit standardized test scores. Applying to a test optional school can be the right fit for some students, and if this describes you, you should investigate schools with alternative testing policies. However, even if a student is only planning on applying to test optional schools, it is still important to take standardized testing in the case that anything was to go awry and they needed them in order to attend another school.

-Olivia Ferraro

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