Test Optional: The Impact on Students

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:

As we continue to dive into test-optional policies, we wanted to examine not only how these policies impact colleges, as we did yesterday, but also how they impact students. Proponents argue that making test score submission optional will allow more students access to colleges and universities. We examine that hypothesis today.

Those arguing for test-optional policies don’t suggest eliminating the tests altogether. Indeed, many college admissions officers have spoken about the important role scores play in decision making, and they have demonstrated usefulness in predicting student success at many colleges, especially as grade inflation (and adjusted grading policies as a result of COVID-19) may make high school GPA a less-reliable indicator. Instead, they argue that scores should be used holistically—and that colleges should stop publishing test score ranges for their admitted classes. They suggest that this policy will reduce anxiety for students, allow them to more freely submit applications, and allow colleges to admit students whose academic profiles are a good fit for their school (but whose test scores may hurt their application and the school’s rankings).

Conversely, analysis has shown that students who did not submit test scores to test-optional colleges were slightly less likely to be admitted to colleges. They also had slightly lower GPAs than students who submitted test scores. It’s possible that reducing the transparency provided by test scores, as suggested by test-optional advocates, may make it more challenging for students to know what schools are a “good fit” for them and ultimately lead to increased numbers of applications, increased rejections, and increased anxiety for already-stressed high school juniors and seniors.

We have updated our test-optional information page as your centralized resource to reference and refer others to when thinking through the subject. Tomorrow, we’ll share our position as Academic Approach on the subject of test optional.

Be well,
Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

Matthew Pietrafetta

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