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Does the test optional movement mean the end of test prep?

Written By: Scott Webster - ACT/SAT Director

More schools are going “test-optional.” Does this spell the end for test prep?

Emphatically, NO!

Yes, the list of schools no longer requiring standardized test scores for admission has now reached 950 institutions, 275 of them highly ranked according to U.S. News & World Report [source: National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest)].  And yes, in the end, your academic performance, extracurricular involvement, and admission essay weigh more heavily on your application than do standardized test scores; however, here’s why you shouldn’t throw in the test prep towel just yet:

  • Standardized test scores will always be, for better or worse, the great equalizer.  Admissions officers assess thousands of students from across the world every year, all with spectacular GPAs, diverse extracurriculars, various sports accolades, and prize-winning admission essays  [source: NACAC criteria for admission].  How will YOU differentiate yourself from the pack?  A strong SAT and/or ACT score can be that edge you may need.
  • Standardized test scores will be tied to merit-based scholarships.  With the cost of tuition (not including other fees and room-and-board) ranging from $14,000 on average for public institutions to $50,000 for private institutions, need-based financial aid can only do so much.  According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), four out of five schools used standardized test criteria for merit-based financial aid [source: NACAC].  The potential aid awarded ranges from a not-insignificant $1000 per year (contingent on minimum standardized test score criteria) to full-tuition and board.  SAT and ACT test performance is often tied to the school’s purse strings, so do what you can to loosen them!

We realize this is coming from a company whose business model is built on test prep, and we readily acknowledge the suspect, self-serving  nature of recent attacks on schools going test optional (see Collegeboard’s and ACT’s reaction).  Nonetheless, we believe standardized tests are here to stay, and we’re committed to helping both students and parents navigate the undulating – and oft-overwhelming – landscape of test preparation and college admission planning.

Have questions or concerns about schools going test optional?  Contact Clayborne now!


-Scott Webster, Co-Owner and Director of College Entrance Exam Prep

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