Great piece by Jim Jump if you are following the test-optional movement. A highlight:
There are, of course, some global reasons why test-optional policies will not go away. One is the decision by the University of California and Cal State systems to no longer use test scores in their admission processes. As a result, colleges that recruit heavily in California will have a hard time reinstating test score requirements. But students outside California may also rebel against colleges that return to requiring test scores. The Ivies may be able to get away with it, but two years ago, when the pandemic accelerated the number of colleges going the test-optional route, an admissions dean friend postulated that colleges farther down the food chain may find that students may simply refuse to apply to colleges that aren’t test optional.
Interesting read if you are following the test-optional movement and related debates. Sal Khan is the founder of Khan Academy, a non-profit that partners with the College Board. Read the interview here.
Will other schools follow in the name of transparency (because—let’s be honest—although test-optional policies do have merit at some institutions, they do not increase transparency around the admissions process)?
After careful consideration, we have decided to reinstate our SAT/ACT requirement for future admissions cycles. Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT. We believe a requirement is more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy. In the post below — and in a separate conversation with MIT News today — I explain more about how we think this decision helps us advance our mission.
Some popular schools that have also rolled back COVID-era test-optional policies include UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Wilmington, UNC-Charlotte, East Carolina, Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, New College of Florida, FSU, UCF, and USF (all State University System of Florida).
According to an updatedlist released by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), more than 1,815 colleges and universities now practice test-optional or test-blind admissions, an all-time high. The list includes nearly all of the nation’s most selective colleges and universities. At least 1,400 institutions have already extended those policies at least through the fall 2023 admissions cycle. Among the schools that will not require ACT or SAT tests from current high school juniors are well-known private institutions, such as Amherst, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, and Tufts. In addition, many public university systems including those in California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, and Washington will remain test-optional or test-blind.
Test optional and test blind are two very different things!
Test optional means if students send scores with their application, those scores will be used in the evaluation of their application.
Test blind (or what Cornell calls score free) means students may not submit scores nor will scores be used in the evaluation of files.
Colleges and universities that are currently test blind:
University of California System
California State System
Cal Poly (Pomona and Slo)
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
Cornell University (CALS, AAP, Dyson, Hotel)
San Diego State (SDSU)
Washington State University
“ACT has a reputation for stodginess. Its eponymous test hasn’t had any substantial changes since 1989. Today, ACT just blew up that reputation. It announced superscore reporting, online testing on national test dates, and most radically, section retesting. The changes would go into effect starting in September 2020. EdWeek has been first to share reactions and ACT has provided a detailed FAQ, but a wide range of questions remain unanswered and we will have to wait and see how colleges respond.”
Fellow IECA member Cigus Vanni is the master of lists. He created many that he shares with fellow IEC’s, and one sheds light on that almost no colleges continue to require or recommend the writing portion of the SAT or ACT. The biggest exception is the UC system, which still requires it.
Here’s his list as of 6/27:
Abilene Christian University (TX) – recommend
Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (NY) – recommend
Augsburg College (MN) – recommend (note: Augsburg is a test-optional school)
Berry College (GA) – require ACT, neither require nor recommend SAT
College of Charleston (SC) – recommend
Duke University (NC) – recommend
Eastern Illinois University – recommend ACT; neither require nor recommend SAT
Manhattan College (NY) – recommend; used for placement in writing courses, not for admission to school
Martin Luther College (MN) – require ACT, neither require nor recommend SAT
Michigan State University – recommend
Montana State University – recommend; used for placement in writing courses, not for admission to school
Oregon State University – recommend SAT; neither require nor recommend ACT
Rhode Island College – require ACT, neither require nor recommend SAT
Saint Anselm College (NH) – recommend (note: Saint Anselm is a test optional school)
Saint Norbert College (WI) – recommend
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania – recommend
Soka University of America (CA) – require
State University of New York at Buffalo – recommend
Texas State University – recommend ACT
United States Military Academy (NY) – require
University of California Berkeley – require
University of California Davis – require
University of California Irvine – require
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) – require
University of California Merced – require
University of California Riverside – require
University of California San Diego – require
University of California Santa Barbara – require
University of California Santa Cruz – require
University of Evansville (IN) – require (note: Evansville is a test optional school)
University of Mary Hardin Baylor (TX) – require
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities – recommend
University of Montana – recommend
University of Montana Western – require ACT, recommend SAT
VanderCook College of Music (IL) – require
Webb Institute of Naval Architecture (NY) – recommend
NOTE: All information current with the updating of this list on June 26, 2019. Be sure to check with each college to which you apply before you register for any standardized test as requirements can change.
Test prep is not really my thing, but it plays a big role in the college admissions process for many students. That said, be on the lookout for some testing-related guest posts in the coming months! The article below is by Nicholas LaPoma, the owner of Long Island-based Curvebreakers Test Prep.
Possibly the most important difference between the two tests is timing. In short, you get less time per question on the ACT. Check this out:
As you can see, you get much less time to complete any one question on the ACT. One of the most important examples is on the Reading tests. On the SAT you get 13 minutes per passage, on the ACT you get 8 minutes 45 seconds per passage. That is a huge difference! So, if you struggle with timing, the SAT is likely for you.
2. Question Distribution
The SAT and ACT have a vastly different distribution of questions in terms of subject matter. This is especially true in the Math section of the tests, as the ACT has a large amount of Geometry and Trigonometry questions and the SAT does not. The SAT is more Algebra focused.
Further, the ACT is considered an achievement test (What you learned) whereas the SAT is often considered to be a trickier, more aptitude based test (based on skills). If you hate Algebra, and like straightforward word problems, the ACT Might be for you.
3. No-Calculator Math
A similar but important consideration is how one will handle no-calculator Math. Many students are used to punching every question and operation into their calculator and are totally reliant upon the calculator for basic multiplication and division. These students will struggle on the no-calculator portion of the SAT, as you may have to do long division. Some schools do not allow students to use calculators until a certain grade level – those students will be better equipped to tackle this section. If you really struggle with no-calc, the ACT might be for you.
4. Science Section
As you probably know, the ACT contains a science-based section. This is actually a reading / chart reading / graph reading task, so it often correlates well with reading score. That means that the ACT is mostly based on reading skill, whereas the SAT is mostly based on Math skill.
As indicated above, the Science section actually makes the ACT a more reading based exam, where the SAT is a more math based exam.
5. Question Difficulty
The SAT is typically considered an aptitude test. It is based on your skills in each area that is tested. The acronym SAT initially stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test, proving the point. The SAT is unable to move away from its roots and become a totally achievement based exam, so many students “feel” that the questions are more tricky or difficult. If you like more straightforward questions, the ACT may be a better test for you. We find little difference when preparing students for the exams, but some students in particular find one test more appealing than the other for this reason.
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From Compass, updated SAT Subject test (SAT II) requirements and recommendations for the Class of 2018. Not many changes here, but worth reviewing now as it is time to sign up for May and June exams, and think ahead as you create your testing plan. Thanks, Compass!
Carnegie Mellon requires the SAT or ACT with Writing AND 2 SAT Subject Tests (for most applicants). Subject requirements vary by program, but include Math (Level 1 or Level 2). College of Fine Arts programs, with the exception of Architecture, do not require Subject Tests.
Harvard requires the SAT or ACT with Writing. Two SAT Subject Tests are “normally” required. “While we normally require two SAT Subject Tests, you may apply without them if the cost of taking the tests represents a financial hardship or if you prefer to have your application considered without them…If your first language is not English, a Subject Test in your first language may be less helpful.”
Tufts requires the SAT and 2 SAT Subject Tests OR ACT. Engineering applicants submitting Subject Tests are advised to take math and either physics or chemistry. Students considering a major in mathematics or the sciences are advised to take math and a science test.
Duke requires the SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing and recommends 2 SAT Subject Tests if applicants submit SAT. Subject Tests are considered if applicants submit ACT. “Applicants to the Pratt School of Engineering who take the SAT must take one SAT Subject Test in Mathematics (level 1 or level 2).”
Emory requires the SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing. “[SAT Subject Tests] are encouraged, but not required. Students are encouraged to submit SAT subject exam scores for academic areas of strength and/or interest.”
Northwestern requires the SAT or ACT. Northwestern recommends applicants take 2 SAT Subject Tests. The Honors Program in Medical Education (HPME) and the Integrated Science Program (ISP) require specific Subject Tests.
Princeton requires the SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing. Princeton recommends that applicants submit 2 Subject Tests. Engineering candidates are advised to take a math Subject Test and either chemistry or physics.
Stanford requires the SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing. ALL test scores from ALL dates must be submitted for the SAT and ACT. “SAT Subject Tests are recommended but not required. Applicants who do not take SAT Subject Tests will not be at a disadvantage. Because SAT Subject Tests are optional, applicants may use Score Choice to selectively send their SAT Subject Test scores.”
UC Berkeley requires the SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing and considers Subject Tests if submitted. College of Chemistry and College of Engineering recommend Math Level 2 and a science related to the applicant’s intended major.
UC Irvine requires the SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing and considers Subject Tests if submitted. School of Engineering, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Physical Sciences, and Program in Public Health all have specific Subject Test recommendations.
UCLA requires the SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing and considers Subject Tests if submitted. School of Engineering and Applied Sciences recommends Math Level 2 and a science test related to the applicant’s intended major.
UC Riverside requires the SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing and considers Subject Tests if submitted. College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and College of Engineering recommend Math Level 2 and either Chemistry or Physics.
UC San Diego requires the SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing and considers Subject Tests if submitted. Biological or physical science applicants and applicants to the School of Engineering should take Math Level 2 and a science Subject Test related to the applicant’s intended major.
UC Santa Barbara requires the SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing and considers Subject Tests if submitted. Math Level 2 is recommended for College of Engineering applicants and College of Creative Studies applicants in math, physics, or computer science. In addition, physics, biology, chemistry, and biochemistry majors are encouraged to take the appropriate science Subject Test.
Penn requires the SAT or ACT. Any 2 Subject Tests are recommended for arts, humanities, and social sciences applicants. STEM applicants are strongly encouraged to take Math Level 2 and a science Subject Test (Physics recommended for engineering applicants). Math Level 2 is recommended for business applicants. Nursing applicants are encouraged to submit a science Subject Test (preferably, Chemistry).
Boston University requires the SAT or ACT with Writing. Accelerated medical and dental programs require Subject Tests in Chemistry and Math 2. A Subject Test in a foreign language is also recommended for these programs.
Connecticut College is test optional. Students may choose to submit the SAT Reasoning Test, 2 Subject Tests, or the ACT if they wish. “If you submit multiple SAT Subject Tests, we will consider your two highest scores from two different tests.”
Johns Hopkins requires the SAT or ACT. Students may submit Subject Tests as a “way to demonstrate an academic strength . . . Engineering applicants are encouraged to submit Math Level 2 and one science.”
Union is test optional except for the Law and Public Policy Program and the Leadership in Medicine Program. The 6-year law program requires the SAT or ACT. The 8-year medical program requires either the ACT with Writing or the SAT and 2 Subject Tests.
University of Chicago requires the SAT or ACT and will consider SAT Subject Tests if submitted. “If you have done exceptionally well on a particular subject test and would like to show us, feel free to send us that score.”
Miami requires the SAT or ACT. Optional essays are required but used for placement only. Honors Program in Medicine and Honors Program in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology require minimum scores of 600 on a math Subject Test and on a science Subject Test.
Vanderbilt requires the SAT or ACT and will consider Subject Tests if submitted. School of Engineering applicants choosing to submit scores should strongly consider taking either Math Level 1 or Level 2.
Wesleyan is test optional. SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Tests will be considered if submitted. All entering first-year students must submit ACT or SAT and two SAT Subject Test scores after the conclusion of the admission process for academic counseling and placement.
Colorado College’s requirements are satisfied with 1 of the following options: (1) SAT (2) ACT (3) Three exams of the student’s choice, including one verbal/writing and one quantitative, selected from the lists provided by Colorado College’s website.
Hamilton’s testing requirements are satisfied with 1 of the following options: (1) SAT (Essay optional) (2) ACT (Writing optional) (3) Quantitative, verbal, and writing tests from among SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, and APs.
NYU’s testing requirements are satisfied by fulfilling one of the following: (A) SAT (B) ACT with Writing (C) 3 Subject Tests (D) 3 AP exams (E) The International Baccalaureate Diploma (F) 3 IB higher-level exams (if a student is not an IB Diploma candidate). Students who choose to submit three SAT Subject Test, AP, or IB scores must submit one in literature or the humanities, one in math or science, and one of the student’s choice. Some programs have additional requirements.