SAT? ACT? IDK: What’s up with testing?

Standardized testing has changed dramatically in recent years, learn how.

For decades colleges and universities have relied heavily on two tests to help them make their admissions decisions. For just as long, educators have argued that these tests don’t accurately reflect a student’s ability to be successful in college. Placing so much weight on a single standardized test has led students to ignore the activities that ARE indicators of future success like enrolling in challenging classes, having a job, or engaging in experiential learning opportunities so that they can spend a significant amount of time preparing for a test. 

Due to the pandemic, colleges in 2020 were forced to remove their testing requirements. This prompted the testing companies to implement some long-desired changes. The essays, arbitrary vocabulary sections, and point deductions for incorrect answers have been removed in favor of more reading and evidenced based questions, and options for taking the test remotely. 

Colleges have taken it a step further. Currently, there are nearly 1600 colleges and universities that have announced that they will continue to make testing optional, and the entire University of California system (including UCLA and UC Berkeley) have said that they will never again consider either the SAT or ACT as part of the application process. 

What does this mean for current high school students who are planning on college? One of my former colleagues at UC Berkeley noted, “Colleges are really starting to value students who take initiative and make an impact. They want to find students who are: 

  • Taking the most challenging classes at their high schools, especially the APs (Advanced Placement). 
  • Engaging in some sort of meaningful work outside of the classroom. That can be clubs, volunteering, internships, sports, or jobs. 
  • Making a positive impact on a community they are a part of, including but not limited to their town, school, or even their own household.”

While standardized testing will likely never go away totally, it is no longer recommended to spend hundreds of hours or thousands of dollars on test prep. Your time would be much better utilized by working to improve your grades, and finding an area outside of school that you’re passionate about and can become more involved in. 

If the college you’re applying to does still require the SAT, I would strongly recommend using Khan Academy’s test prep program. It was created in collaboration with the organization that oversees the SAT, it is absolutely free, and most importantly after taking their diagnostic exam, it tailors its questions to the specific needs of the student studying.