What Does Test Optional Really Mean?
June 18, 2019 Kendell Shaffer
By Kendell Shaffer
If your student excels in extracurriculars and has a good GPA, but doesn’t test well, then Test Optional schools are great options. About 1, 000 colleges accept applications without requiring SAT or ACT scores; they refer to those schools as test optional. This option gives the student more opportunity to be valued by their strengths, instead undervalued because of their weaknesses. But make sure your student has a good GPA if they don’t submit test scores.
According to prepscholar.com, “A test-optional policy leaves the decision up to you whether you want to send SAT scores to a school. SAT-optional colleges do not require you to send your scores. Instead, you must decide whether your test results are an accurate representation of your academic ability and potential.”
Universities tend towards tests because they receive so many applications they need some way to screen candidates. But some universities are becoming test optional. The University of San Francisco, for example, is finding that a better indicator of how well a student will do in college is their grades in college prep classes, not SAT test scores. More liberal arts schools are test optional because they have extra resources to review individual applications.
The three research universities that are test-flexible are the University of Rochester, New York University and Drexel University. “The most highly rated research university to implement a test-optional admission policy is Wake Forest University in North Carolina. The other highly ranked universities that are test optional are Brandeis University, George Washington University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and American University,” according to cappex.com.
“About half of the top 100 liberal arts colleges ranked by U.S. News & World Report are test-optional. Institutions that are test-flexible allow applicants to substitute scores from other tests such as SAT Subject Tests or Advanced Placement tests.”
insidehighered.com says, “Test optional schools are growing. But many of these institutions have open enrollment, so the numbers are misleading. Colleges tend towards test optional so they can attract a more diverse population of candidates.”
cape.com “A paper published in The Journal of College Admissions suggested colleges that switch to a test-optional policy see an immediate 10-20% hike in applications. Generating that spike in applications normally would cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing.”
FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a non-profit that advocates against the tests. is the best way to find test-optional schools and has a list of over 1000 colleges that are test optional listed alphabetically.
If your student plans to apply for financial aid, then they might need to do some additional research. Candidates may not be eligible for merit aid if they don’t supply their scores, so please make sure your student asks the colleges about merit aid.