Ask a College Advisor: Should I Take the SAT, ACT, or Neither?

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by Lonnie Woods III

Updated August 17, 2022

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Ask a College Advisor: Should I Take the SAT, ACT, or Neither?

Question: Should I take the SAT, ACT, or neither?

Answer: Deciding which test to take — or if you should take any test at all — is a personal decision for each applicant. It really depends on a student's personal preference and what the admission requirements are for the schools to which they're applying. Many U.S. colleges require standardized test results, meaning you'll need to submit ACT or SAT scores you want to apply to those schools.

Competitive SAT or ACT scores can help make your application stronger in certain cases, but it really depends on how the schools measure the importance of your scores among other factors, such as grades and the admissions essay.

Colleges that require test scores as a part of the admissions process use this information to try and predict how applicants might perform while completing college-level courses. Some college admissions offices also use test scores to differentiate between qualified candidates; in this case, a competitive test score could improve your chances of getting admitted.

All students may not have access to take both tests in their home state. In these cases, speak with your high school guidance counselor to figure out which tests are offered in your area. There are SAT and ACT testing center locators available online to help families find testing sites convenient to their location.

Test-Optional and Test-Blind Admissions

If you are not a strong test-taker or do not want to take the tests for any other reason, you can apply to test-optional and test-blind schools. Select colleges are test-optional or test-blind institutions, meaning that standardized test scores are either optional or not required for applicants.

Test-optional colleges do not require test scores but will accept and consider them with your application if submitted. Test-optional colleges will not penalize students who do not submit their scores. Schools such as New York University have extended their test-optional policies for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Colleges that offer test-blind admissions do not consider test scores, even if they are submitted. For example, the University of San Diego announced their test-blind status in October 2020 for all applicants.

If you feel that you have a strong academic profile outside of your test scores, submitting them might detract from your overall application. Alternatively, if you feel that your test scores add value to your application, you may want to submit them to make it stronger. If you are not interested in taking the SAT or ACT at all, recognize that you will only be able to apply to test-optional or test-blind schools, which will limit the number of schools available to you.

SAT or ACT?

Students often wonder which test they should take — the ACT or the SAT (or both). Colleges that accept both tests do not typically identify a preference for one test over the other. To find out the key differences between the ACT and the SAT, this article provides some insight that may help you to make a more informed decision.

Summary

Whether you choose to take the ACT, the SAT, or neither, remember to consider the pros and cons of each option, and talk to your high school guidance counselor and teachers for advice.

Have a Question About College?

In our Ask a College Advisor series, experienced advisors provide an insider look at the college experience by answering your questions about college admissions, finances, and student life.


DISCLAIMER: The responses provided as part of the Ask a College Advisor series are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact a professional academic, career, or financial advisor before making decisions regarding individual situations.


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