Is "Test Optional" advantageous?

The term "Test Optional" means that schools allow the students the option of sending scores to them or not. Most of these schools are smaller schools that can look holistically at their applicants and decide if they are a good fit for the each. A student with low test scores may benefit from not sending, On the other hand, do the schools really want to see the standardized test scores and not just GPA and extra curricular activities?

Aspects of test optional:

The move toward test optional in some 1,000 colleges provides IECA members with a unique opportunity. Any significant change to the college application process can cause anxiety or confusion among students and parents. They want to know how the changes will impact them and their college search.

Not sending test scores raises the relative importance of other matters:

  • Grade point average, and even more specifically, grades in a challenging curriculum become front and center. Without a standardized test score, the schools will rely more heavily on level of difficulty of courses and the GPA. IECA members can be valuable in helping students select courses that will demonstrate their ability to handle difficult, challenging coursework, highlighting their ability to succeed in college level courses.

  • The essay becomes the avenue of true revelation of the student. Of course essays need to demonstrate the ability to communicate well, but more than anything the essay is about telling a unique and personal story that will help an admission counselor to "understand who you are." An IECA member will help students explore appropriate and compelling topics for the essay.

  • Extracurricular activities. Like the essay, extracurricular activities of duration and involvement rise in the application process for test optional applications.

  • Colleges say that becoming 'test optional' is designed to allow for greater access, that is, to give students who don't test as well (or can't afford test prep) opportunities. Students will find that an IECA member will help them expand their options and examine new colleges where they could be a great match, opening new possibilities where students may be competitive without test scores required.  IECA members visit hundreds of colleges and meet with admission leaders regularly-this firsthand knowledge helps students navigate the college search and find colleges where they can grow academically and socially to find success.

Let's look at California.

Why UC schools say they are going test optional and why they have not.

This certainly rebuts "conventional wisdom" and the narrative many would like to espouse...From the report:

"The Standardized Testing Task Force (STTF) found that standardized test scores aid in predicting important aspects of student success, including undergraduate grade point average (UGPA), retention, and completion. At UC, test scores are currently better predictors of first-year GPA than high school grade point average (HSGPA), and about as good at predicting first-year retention, UGPA, and graduation.

For students within any given (HSGPA) band, higher standardized test scores correlate with a higher freshman UGPA, a higher graduation UGPA, 1 senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/_files/committees/... 2 senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/_files/reports/... 3 UCOP, Relationship of the SAT/ACT to College Performance at the University of California (2019). 4 and higher likelihood of graduating within either four years (for transfers) or seven years (for freshmen).

Further, the amount of variance in student outcomes explained by test scores has increased since 2007, while variance explained by high school grades has decreased, although altogether does not exceed 26%. Test scores are predictive for all demographic groups and disciplines, even after controlling for HSGPA. In fact, test scores are better predictors of success for students who are Underrepresented Minority students (URMs), who are first-generation, or whose families are low-income: that is, test scores explain more of the variance in UGPA and completion rates for students in these groups. One consequence of dropping test scores would be increased reliance on HSGPA in admissions. The STTF found that California high schools vary greatly in grading standards, and that grade inflation is part of why the predictive power of HSGPA has decreased since the last UC study."

What are we to do?

The decision to apply test optional is one to be considered thoroughly. Research shows that scores on ACT are indicators of success in college. The ACT is based on college and career readiness. See Act.org. Test scores are an indicator of where a student will be successful. If a student is scoring in the mid-20's versus a student who scores in the 30's have different choices of schools AS IT SHOULD BE. You want your student to be successful in college and career. There are so many great schools and finding the right match can set the tone for a student's future. Test scores are a valid indicator of success. SO whether the student applies test optional or not. Test scores are helpful in determining what school would be a good match for a student.

What do you think?

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