Test-Optional vs Test-Blind

July 30, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Test-Optional vs Test-Blind

What sets schools that offer test-optional vs test-blind apart from one another? The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Testing (ACT) used to be required of every student who applied to college. However, in recent years, a growing number of colleges and universities have begun to reevaluate the purpose of standardized testing.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many test days had to be rescheduled, and there has been an increase in the number of discussions regarding the validity and reliability of standardized examinations.

Unidentified student writing in a desk.

In response to this, a number of educational institutions, including highly regarded institutions like those in the Ivy League, have adopted admissions policies that do not require applicants to take standardized tests.

It is essential to have a clear understanding of how exactly a test-optional vs test-blind college differs in order to remove any possibility of ambiguity during the admissions process.

What Do “Test-Optional” and “Test-Blind” Mean?

What do “Test-Optional” and “Test-Blind” mean? Schools that allow applicants to choose whether or not to submit their SAT or ACT scores as part of their application are referred to as test-optional schools. A part of test-optional vs test-blind is the decision to not submit a test score does not hurt an applicant’s chances of admission; however, submitting a test score that is particularly high can give an applicant an advantage in the admissions process.

On the other hand, test-blind schools do not take students’ test scores into consideration under any circumstances. An applicant will not have an advantage in the admissions process even if they achieve a perfect score of 1600 on the SAT or 36 on the ACT. In contrast to tests that are optional, where you are allowed to hand in your answers but are not required to do so.

Young woman taking an exam with her fellow classmates.

In the event of test blinding, educational institutions will not acknowledge any scores at all. A select few educational institutions, including the University of California system for the next few years, are moving away from using standardized testing altogether.

These guidelines come with a number of important exceptions. If you are reading these terms and thinking to yourself, “This looks like an opportunity for me to just ditch testing entirely,” then you are probably making a choice that is not the best one. There is a good chance that you will still need to take the admissions tests for some of the schools to which you have applied even if you have submitted applications to more than one school.

If you do not submit test scores, the admissions committee will place a greater emphasis on other aspects of your application, such as your grade point average and the activities you participated in outside of school.

To demonstrate that level of competence, your application will require an additional piece of evidence from you. Rather than devoting the time you would normally spend studying for exams to other activities, such as extracurriculars or classwork, you should use that time to do other things.

Young woman answering a test in a desk.

It is not to be anticipated that now that the SAT is obsolete, nothing else needs to be of a certain standard. That is one of the most common misunderstandings that I aimed to dispel for you today.

What is the reason for Test-Optional or Test-Blind Policies?

What is the reason for Test-Optional or Test-Blind policies? How do test-optional vs test-blind differ? The answer is that educational institutions are looking for students who have potential but have not yet reached their full potential.

Teacher talking to a student while they are doing school works.

The catch is that these policies are also beneficial to educational institutions like colleges. When a college or university implements a policy that allows students to apply without taking standardized exams, the number of students who apply to attend that college or university will increase showing another side of test-optional vs test-blind.

As a result, the college will be able to keep its acceptance rate at a lower level. Therefore, the college will receive more money as a result of the increased number of applicants, as well as an attractive, lower acceptance rate, which will benefit the college in the rankings published by US News and World Report. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that making some tests optional does not only benefit the students; it also provides significant advantages to colleges.

The percentage of students entering colleges with low test scores is expected to improve as well. There are many students that colleges consider to be exceptional and that they would love to accept even if they did not have to take the SAT or the ACT.

One example of this would be a student with a test score of 99 out of 100, which is lower than the average test score for the college. They have the ability to exclude all of those from their test scores, which will result in an increase in their overall test scores when viewed through the lens of US News & World Report.

When you really think about it, that is a little bit dishonest because they are artificially inflating their test scores by taking advantage of a test-optional policy that, in theory, is meant to benefit students.

What implications does this have for the students?

Responses from each individual student for test-optional vs test-blind will vary in response to the shift in the emphasis placed on test scores in the decision-making process regarding admissions.

Students have the option of applying to schools that do not require them to take standardized tests, and if they do so, they may still choose to submit their test scores in order to highlight their academic accomplishments and differentiate themselves from the other students who are applying to the same schools.

Three students talking in a bench while holding their notes.

Some students may decide not to include their test scores in their applications because they believe that the scores do not accurately reflect how well they do academically.

These students might decide to specifically look for colleges that completely test blind in order to eliminate any possibility of being penalized for not including these scores in their application.

In point of fact, many students will still apply to a variety of schools, and the admissions committees at those schools may or may not base their decisions on whether test-optional vs test-blind or the applicants include their test scores in their applications.

Do Test-Optional or Test-Blind Policies Affect My Chances?

Do Test-Optional or Test-Blind Policies affect my chances of admission? Other indicators of academic performance than standardized tests, such as grade point average, the level of difficulty of the coursework, and class rank, are given more weight at colleges that practice test-optional, as well as test-blind policies wherein test-optional vs test-blind attributes, share.

They also adhere to a more holistic admissions philosophy in general, which means that they place a greater emphasis on the extracurricular activities and essays submitted by applicants.

Male student writing in his notebook while looking at the laptop.

Whether test-optional vs test-blind, you should make it a goal to take either the SAT or the ACT at least once unless the only colleges to which you are applying are test-blind.

Your application to a school that does not require standardized tests will be strengthened by a high score on one of these tests, and it is an excellent way to set yourself apart from the other people who are applying to the same school. In addition, if your scores aren’t very high, you always have the option of taking the test optionally without incurring any additional costs.

Other reasons why you’ll need to take either the SAT or the ACT are as follows:

  • If you are a student from another country, the majority of this does not apply to you.
  • Generally speaking, schools will want to see your standardized test scores if you are an applicant from another state. It is only test-blind or test-optional for students who live in California, and only for those students who attend a university in the University of California system.
  • A significant number of academic awards are determined by testing. Therefore, if you want to be considered for a scholarship, you’re going to need to get a certain score on the exam.
  • If you want to compete in the NCAA, you will need to provide the organization with your SAT score in order to be eligible. Things could change in the future, but as of right now, that is still the case.
  • Placement: A lot of schools have their own placement tests that you can take if you want to skip basic-level classes like English 101, Math 101, or other similar courses. If the SAT or ACT will help you place out of certain classes, you want to skip those classes because you’ll get to higher-level, more interesting classes and advance your degree more quickly. This is something that you want to do; if the SAT or ACT will help you place out of certain classes, you want to do this.

You may be wondering: How can I determine whether or not my score will help or hurt me? The typical practice for school websites is to publish the average SAT or ACT scores of admitted students. Do not send in your response if your score is significantly lower than the average.

Send it, especially if it’s higher than average, but send it even if it’s just average. This indicates that you have the option of sending your test scores to certain schools while choosing to withhold them from others.

A high score on the examination can help you differentiate yourself from the other candidates. In addition, having good test scores can compensate for having a slightly lower GPA or less than stellar participation in extracurricular activities.

However, there is no damage that will be done if you choose not to send your scores to a school that does not require standardized testing. To stand out from the crowd, however, you will need to rely on other aspects of your application, such as your grade point average and the activities you participated in outside of school.

Your GPA Matter

Does your GPA matter with test-optional vs test-blind schools? Your high school grade point average is still very important, regardless of whether or not you intend to apply to a school that does not require standardized testing or test-optional vs test-blind. Why? In contrast to the results of standardized tests, which show how you fare in comparison to students from all over the world, your grade point average (GPA) shows how you have performed academically over the course of several years, including on exams, projects, and presentations, using the resources that have been provided to you by your school.

Female student typing in her desk.

Why, then, does your grade point average even matter to colleges in the first place? It all comes down to a statistic that is referred to as a college’s retention rate, which is the number of students who begin their education at a university as freshmen and continue their education there for subsequent years. When a university has a high retention rate, it not only makes more money but also has a better reputation in the eyes of the general public.

According to the statistics, the primary reason why students quit school is that the coursework is too difficult. Therefore, colleges look at your grade point average (in addition to the scores you received on standardized tests) to get an idea of your academic ability and to determine whether or not you will be able to handle the amount of coursework required at their institution.

The problem with considering GPA solely from a numerical standpoint is that it gives no context for the information. Consider the following scenario: you are deciding between two applicants. One has a 2.8 GPA while the other has a 4.0. At first glance, you might conclude that the second option has a higher level of academic qualification.

What if I told you that the former student took every Advanced Placement class offered at her school and was ranked #5 overall, whereas the latter student took less difficult classes and was in the bottom 10 percent of his class because the grading scale used at his school was 9.0 rather than 4.0?

How to Raise Your Grade Point Average?

Because test scores are becoming less significant, other measurable factors, such as your grade point average, are becoming more significant. The following is a list of helpful tips to ensure that your grade point average is stellar:

Engage in Challenging Academics

When colleges examine your transcripts, they are looking at more than just your grades to make a decision. They are also taking into consideration the difficulty of your coursework. They want you to demonstrate that you are capable of excelling in the most difficult classes that are offered at your school by enrolling in those classes and doing well in them.

Put in an application to take Advanced Placement (AP) and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses at your school. If you’ve already chosen a major, you should consider taking classes that are related to that major. Not only will this get you ready for what lies ahead, but it will also demonstrate to colleges that you are enthusiastic about the subject matter, dedicated to it, and have the ability to excel in it.

Maintain effective study habits throughout the school year, and put in the necessary amount of effort to prepare for your AP or IB exams. Following the implementation of test-blind or test-optional policies, scores such as these may also become more significant.

Take Notes

Taking notes in class forces you to remain attentive. It improves both your ability to take in information and to remember it, which ultimately results in better grades for you.

Invest in a notebook for each of your classes and use it to make notes on anything novel or significant that is covered in each of your classes. Pay close attention not only to the information that is presented on slides or handouts but also to the information that is reiterated by your instructor.

When you sit down to do your homework at night, make it a habit to read over the notes you took during the day. It is much simpler to remember information if you listen to it, write it down, and read it. If you come across anything that doesn’t make sense to you, be sure to jot it down and ask your instructor about it the next day.

Make sure you have solid routines for studying.

Developing great study habits requires a solid foundation, which can be laid by developing the practice of taking notes and reviewing them.

It prevents you from having to cram mountains of information the night before the test, only for you to forget it the moment you walk out of the testing room. (Not only for the sake of passing this test but also for the success you will have in college and in your career in the future.)

When it is time for a test, you should go back over your notes and the chapter(s) in your textbook. Write down on a separate sheet of paper anything that stands out to you as being unfamiliar in the passage. Before you call it a day, you should go back through this list one more time at the very least. In addition, you can use any study guides that are provided by your instructor, make flashcards, or make notes using two columns.

The use of study groups can also be beneficial, provided that you and your friends won’t become overly distracted by socializing. When I was in high school, my friends and I would occasionally study together, but mostly we worked on our own.

On the other hand, on the morning of a significant test, we got together at a local coffee shop that was close to our school. We tested each other, went over the material, and cleared up any misconceptions or questions that may have arisen.

Ask for Help

Do not let the fear of asking for assistance prevent you from gaining knowledge and achieving success. When you are unsure of something, ask your instructor for clarification.

If you are having trouble keeping up with the AP English material, consider working with a classmate who is succeeding. Perhaps you could switch classes; for example, if you excel in advanced placement calculus but they struggle with it, you could offer your assistance to them in this area.

If you’re falling behind in a subject, another option available to you is to get tutoring. It doesn’t mean you aren’t talented or intelligent. In point of fact, it demonstrates that you are self-aware and self-sufficient enough to recognize when assistance is required and to seek it out.

Advice on Making the Most of Your Extracurricular Activities

Because there are fewer data points that colleges need to consider, it is likely that schools, particularly selective ones, will place a greater emphasis on the parts of your application that are more subjective. This includes any participation in extracurricular activities.

When it comes to extracurricular activities, colleges are more concerned with the quality of participation than the quantity of time spent participating.

They do not want their school to be filled with students who participate in a wide variety of activities. They are looking for students who have a wide range of interests and abilities, and who excel at a select few things in particular. To ensure that your participation in extracurricular activities is rewarding, consider the following:

Pursue Your Passions

You are not required to confine yourself to just “one thing,” but you should select extracurricular activities that you have a strong interest in.

If you already have an idea of what you want to study or do for a living, select a few organizations that are related to that field. The next step is to become a member of a few additional organizations or activities that stimulate and motivate you.

The colleges you apply to should be able to get a sense of who you are based on your extracurricular activities. What do you love? What is it that motivates you? What gets your motor running? Choose activities not because you believe they are impressive or because your best friend has signed up for them, but rather for the reasons listed above.

Your application will stand out more if it includes details about you and your experiences to a greater extent. This is especially true in a world where tests are not required or optional.

Be Consistent

Once you’ve identified three to six pursuits that truly excite you, commit fully to pursuing those interests. You are free to abandon something if you feel an overwhelming aversion to it. However, the majority of colleges look for applicants who are consistent.

Colleges will take notice if you find a few activities that you have a strong interest in, then continue to participate in those activities throughout your high school career and strive to improve.

Take Charge and Succeed

What exactly does it mean for one to develop while participating in an activity? Increase the amount you contribute on an annual basis, with the end goal being to assume leadership roles. Obtain acclaim in the form of honors, awards, and recognition.

Getting elected to an official leadership role, such as a club officer or a team captain, is the most straightforward way to assume a position of authority in a group. You also have the opportunity to take part in student government. And if your school does not already have a club or organization that you are particularly interested in, consider initiating one yourself!

To take on a leadership role within an organization, however, you do not need to hold an official leadership position. You can also lead committees, solve problems or contribute to the solution of problems, present new ideas and initiatives, recruit new members, and so on.

Earning awards and recognition is yet another method of demonstrating growth. Participate in competitions that are pertinent to your areas of interest and look for opportunities to exhibit your skills. Being accepted into prestigious internships, summer programs, or research projects are some other examples of ways that talent can be demonstrated.

You are able to demonstrate that you are not only enthusiastic about the things that you enjoy doing but that you are also an outstanding performer in these areas by leading and achieving.

Put It in Writing

Finally, make sure to keep a record of the following in some kind of document:

  • The events that you take part in, including the beginning and ending times for each one
  • The specific ways in which you make a contribution to each of these activities or organizations
  • Positions of leadership in connection with these activities and organizations
  • Accolades, medals, or other forms of recognition

No matter what you do, if you don’t remember to mention it on your college application, it won’t help your chances of getting in. When you are putting together your activity summary for colleges, you will find that this document is an extremely helpful resource. In addition to that, it might inspire you to write a fantastic essay for your application to college.

If you follow these guidelines, you can boost your chances of standing out and making a good impression, regardless of how well you perform on the ACT or SAT.

Looking for help with the college admissions process and further know test-optional vs test-blind colleges? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey from search, and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation, and final school selection. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process, including our athletic recruitment program.

AdmissionSight will assist you throughout the entirety of the college admissions process in order to increase your chances of gaining entry into your dream school.

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