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Are Standardized Tests Still Important?

A new trend has been underway since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and that is the movement to limit the role of standardized tests for higher education (college) and K-12 private school admissions. However, this does not mean that the SAT, ACT, and the SSAT no longer have a function, they do, but that function is changing.


Colleges & Universities Remove SAT/ACT Requirement

What began as a response to limited access to testing sites in 2020, has spurred something much greater. Harvard University recently announced that they will continue their “test-optional” decision for SAT and ACT through 2026. Many other colleges and universities are following suit.

However, the fact remains, scores on these tests are still considered for a student’s entrance. Not too long ago, in fact, Massachusetts Institute of Technology brought back their SAT requirement, stating that a student's success at MIT "is significantly improved by standardized testing". Remember, just because something is not required does not make it null and void. Students can submit a score, or choose not to, but the decision essentially now lies in the student’s hands for most schools. For students who perform well on these tests, it behooves them to submit their scores. Students who excel in other areas, but not necessarily test-taking, can showcase their accolades and worthiness for entry in other creative ways.

Private High Schools Remove SSAT/ISEE Requirements

A trickle-down effect is expected when universities decide to remove testing requirements. The Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) and Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) are both tests for admissions to private middle schools and high schools. So, what’s next for these specific tests?

Similar to the universities, many private schools are electing to make these tests optional, too. But, for students to gain entry into these highly-competitive elite private schools, it is in a student’s best interest to complete the test and submit their score.

Consider the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, with a 10% acceptance rate. Could a student be accepted to that school without an SSAT score? Possibly. Would it give a student a leg-up to hire a tutor, dedicate time to studying, perform well, and then submit their score, even if not technically required for admission? Absolutely. It is a no-brainer to take the SSAT and showcase your performance in order to stand out.

Silver Linings

This temporary or permanent pause on standardized testing requirements for academic entry is a silver lining for students who are not the best test-takers. These tests can cause ample amounts of stress and are simply not everyone’s forte. Students are getting creative in this new era. Some gain entry by submitting a portfolio of their work while others submit videos to showcase their personality, story, and speaking skills. There are more ways than ever to shine and showcase a student’s skills that extend well beyond a test.

So, what is the takeaway? While these tests may not be required by many top-tier private schools and universities today and into the future, there is still a benefit and value in studying for, completing, and submitting test scores to your schools of choice. After all, just because something is not required, it does not mean a student won’t gain a competitive advantage over their peers with a stellar performance on the SAT, ACT, SSAT, or ISEE.

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