Standardized Tests

Source: Original

Did you know there are more than 900 colleges that are test optional as of the 2019 admissions season? As the number of test optional schools gets bigger, there is still stress put on students to take the SAT and/or ACT.

There is more to the SAT and ACT tests than the basic sections that get the most attention by courses and training guides. By basic, I mean the well-known parts of the tests including the Evidence-Based Reading (65 minutes), Writing (35 minutes), and Math (80 minutes) portions. There is an optional 50-minute essay section which is optional. In total, the entire test with the essay will normally take 3 hours and 50 minutes.  Still, let’s not pretend that the hours of test-taking are what you give up here. The pressure to perform to your highest ability and the weeks (or months) of potential preparation can be torturous to those not naturalized to the standardized test-taking battle.

SAT breakdown, Source: Get Schooled

As for the ACT, there are four or five sections: English (45 minutes), Math (60 minutes), Reading (35 minutes), Science (35 minutes), and the optional essay (40 minutes); With the total testing time being 2 hours and 55 minutes, we’re talking 3 hours and 35 minutes to complete the full assessment.

ACT breakdown, Source: Study Point

The Positives of Grinding Through The Tests:

Test results are required by many schools. Unfortunately, that’s just a fact of life for graduating seniors. If you want to apply to a range of schools all over, taking the SAT and/or ACT will give you more flexibility in the choices of schools that you can apply to.

Source: Artesia Daily Press

Test Offer More Chances at Merit-Based Aid

Source: The South Shore Press

Although the school might not require you to submit your SAT or ACT scores, if you want to be eligible for Merit Aid you may or may not still have to put in your scores. According to the Princeton Review, “Merit includes a variety of talents and interests: academic, artistic, athletic, and the list goes on. Scholarships are the most common type of merit-based aid (though some do have a need-based component), which may come from the school or from outside sources.”


Strong Test Scores do no Guarantee Admission

Source: PBS

Even though you apply with competitive standardized test scores, it’s not always a guarantee that you will get in just because you have the numbers perceived to be that school’s “cut-off.” It is widely known that test scores are not fully indicative of your qualifications to be part of the newest freshmen class of your dream school. But this can work in your favor. The following table illustrates illuminating statistics that show how schools increasingly look for signs of potential that have little or nothing to do with whether or not you scored well on the SAT.

These are the percentages for the freshmen who enrolled and submitted their test scores. Source: Princeton Review

More Time to Study for Your Core Academic Subjects

Source: Lone Star College

When you sign up to take the SAT and ACT, there is far more to the commitment than just showing up for the handful of hours at the testing center. If you want to have a decent score, you’ll have to study intensely while also setting time aside for your normal SAS classes and activities. With this, you have to think about time management and question if you can handle the “job on the side” of proper preparation for external testing.

And Finally… Cost!

Sitting these tests is not cheap. When signing up for the ACT and SAT, the website tells you that you have an amount of time to tell them which schools you want your scores sent to, and if you forget, it will be an extra cost on top of what you already paid. For some people cost may not be a big deal, but for others who take the SAT and ACT, the cost can be up to $80 to send extra scores out even if you decide to apply to a new school. In addition to the application fees for all of the schools, the price can skyrocket after everything is said and done.

Test Optional Schools

As of September 2018, there are more than 1,000 accredited universities and colleges shifting to test optional. Some are highly ranked, however, the downside to this is that if you want to go to an Ivy League school, they do still require you to submit test scores. To see a list of over 100 highly ranked schools, click here. Below are just a handful of schools billing themselves as SAT-optional:

  • Bates College
  • Bowdoin College
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • The George Washington University
  • Hofstra University
  • Pitzer College (for students with a ≥3.5 unweighted GPA or who are in the top 10% of their high school class)
  • Sarah Lawrence College
  • Smith College (for US citizens/permanent residents)
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Iowa
  • Wake Forest University
  • Wesleyan University (for students attending US/Canadian high schools)

The purpose of this piece is not to dissuade you from taking the tests. After all, for some students at SAS, standardized tests might be your strong point! If you do choose to takes the SAT or ACT, know that there are still plenty of ways you can study that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. There are free apps in the App store and you can use many online resources that are far less expensive than physical courses.

Regardless of your decision, know that you have options!

Author: Sydney Dumke

Sydney Dumke is a senior at SAS and her first year working at the eye. Sydney was born in Texas, but has lived in in Hawaii, Italy, Washington State, Florida, and Guam. SAS is her 10th school. Sydney plays for the Varsity soccer and Softball team. Some of her favorite things to do are make YouTube videos and watching Netflix, and photography. She can be contacted at

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