As you may have noticed, colleges have started to release their test policies for the 2022-2023 admissions cycles. Some of these schools have started to slowly shift their policy back towards test required. In this blog, we’ll talk about what it means when schools say they are “Test-Flexible,” or “Test-Recommended.”
Where is Test-Optional Heading?
Recently, some schools’ test-optional announcements come with fine print. These schools say they are test-optional, however, they also strongly encourage students to submit test scores. So, should you submit your test score?
For example, Yale recently announced they will be test-optional for the 2022-2023 admissions cycle. But the announcement included the following:
“Applicants who have successfully completed one or more ACT or SAT exams should consider including scores, even if those scores are below the middle 50% ranges listed below.”Yale’s Standardized Testing Announcement
Yale goes on to say that their research shows the ACT and SAT are significant predictors of undergraduate academic performance. Further on, they say that Yale evaluates test scores within a student’s “unique context.” Basically, they want to see your test scores. They will look at your score in the context of where you apply from. If you come from a background where you don’t have resources for test prep, Yale can take that into consideration. In any case, if you are able to take the SAT or ACT, it may give colleges more confidence to advocate for you as a good candidate.
We also wanted to talk about the middle 50% range of test scores. Most schools will include that information in their class profiles or common data sets. The middle 50% of SAT scores for Yale freshmen enrolled in Fall 2020 were 740-800 for math and 720-780 for ERW. Some counselors will tell you that you should aim for the average of the middle 50% for any given school. However, even if you are at the lower end (25th percentile), you should still consider submitting your score. Submitting a score in the 25th percentile is better than submitting nothing. This is especially true as we move towards a vaccinated environment where it is safer and easier to find and take a standardized test.
For the 2021-2022 admissions cycle, MIT also encouraged students to submit test scores if they had them. They did add that you should not take the test if you can’t take it safely. Although they would prefer to see a test score, they understand some people are unable to take the test for reasons outside of their control, so there is still a path towards admission without one. We should note that MIT has not yet announced their 2022-2023 admissions cycle policy.
For the 2022-2023 admissions cycle, Purdue is “Test-Flexible,” instead of test-optional. They have fully dropped the word “optional,” and they would prefer students submit a test score. They do add, however, that they understand possible cancellations due to the pandemic may impact students’ applications. In the event that a student is unable to take the test, they will move forward with their application. Essentially, they expect you to take the test unless cancellations make it impossible. If you’re planning on applying to Purdue, you should probably take the test!
Another school with a “Test-Flexible” policy is Auburn. Auburn states that if you want to be a test-optional candidate, you need a 3.6 GPA, and you need to be unable to secure a test. This implies, again, that they want to see a test from applicants, but acknowledge some students cannot take one due to pandemic cancellations.
Policies vs. Practices
As we mentioned in our “Test-Optional: Who Does it Hurt?” video, some schools with test-optional policies may still favor applicants who submit test scores. Author Jeff Selingo presents evidence to support this claim in his April 2021 newsletter. According to Selingo, the admit rate of students with test scores was sometimes twice as high as those without. For example, the admit rate at Emory was 17% for those with tests, and 8.6% for those without. At Colgate University, it was 25% with tests, and 12% for those without. At Georgia Tech it was 22% for those with tests, and 10% for those without. Finally, at Vanderbilt the admit rate was 7.2% for those with tests, versus 6% for those without.
Emory, one of the schools noted above, mentions in their test policy that “test scores will be reviewed as a demonstration of the applicant’s academic preparation.” They are admitting that test scores are considered positively in your application.
Colgate’s Dean of Admission, Tara Bubble is quoted saying, “Admission decisions are not based on a formula. Instead, they are the result of a full consideration of students within their own context.” They also admit that standardized tests may act as a barrier for some well-qualified students. Given this language, this school might be safer to submit your test score, because they are admitting that test scores aren’t everything.
Vanderbilt may be a school where they are doing one thing, but saying another. Vanderbilt’s test policy states, “The applicant’s choice regarding ACT or SAT score submission will not advantage or disadvantage the application review.” However, why include something as a factor in your application if it doesn’t mean anything? Additionally, Selingo’s data shows that you have a greater chance of acceptance to Vanderbilt if you do take the test.
So What Do You Do?
If you’re applying to college in the 2022-2023 admissions cycle, we always recommend that you give tests a chance. However, there are a few categories where you may skip the test. First, if you’re a terrible test-taker. If you get major anxiety, and you know that you’ll bomb the standardized tests, you can choose to skip it and go test-optional. Second, if you’re a student in California and you know that, financially, it makes the most sense to apply in-state. Both the UCs and CSU schools are test-blind, so you don’t need to take the test. If you’re only applying to test-blind schools, you don’t need to take the test. However, if you’re applying to a variety of schools, and you want to keep some doors open, then consider taking the test.