Test Optional or Limiting Your Options?

Many colleges and universities went "test optional" in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As you prepare to apply to college, it's important to
understand how test optional impacts your admission.

We're here to help!

Your college application is like a jigsaw puzzle. 

With each piece of information—GPA, extracurricular activities, volunteer hours, test scores, awards—you are giving colleges a complete picture of who you are. If you don’t include an ACT score, you’re removing part of the picture.

Top Five Questions You Should Ask Colleges with Test Optional Policies

  1. How much weight is given to specific components of my application [i.e. GPA, test scores (if submitted), course load and rigor of courses taken, letters of recommendation, personal statements/essays, high school profile, portfolios, extracurricular activities, work experience, resume, etc.]? 
  2. How are scholarships awarded? Is the process different for students who submit test scores and those who do not submit test scores? 
  3. Without test scores, how do I place into appropriate levels of math, English, world languages, etc.?   
  4. What is your acceptance rate of students who submit test scores compared to non-submitters? 
  5. Is demonstrated interest considered in the admission process? How can I best demonstrate my interest in your school? 


Expand each section below for frequently asked questions and answers.

If a college or university is “test optional” it means they do not require you to submit ACT or SAT test scores to be admitted. If you submit your scores to a test optional institution, the scores will be considered. A “test blind” college does not look at or consider your scores for the purpose of the admission decision. You should keep in mind that some test blind schools still use the test data for scholarships, course placement, and advising. There is also a third category—test flexible—where schools have a longer list of assessments deemed acceptable for use. In addition to the ACT or SAT, test flexible institutions accept AP or IB.

Test optional policies are college and university-specific, meaning some schools may require test scores for certain academic programs, for certain GPAs, or as a requirement after enrollment. Around 40% of schools still require the submission of test scores for admission. Test optional schools may require test scores for certain academic programs, for certain GPAs, or as a requirement after enrollment. Historically, the majority of students who apply to test optional schools still submit test scores with their application.

You are more than a score. Your score is a standardized, objective measure of your skills.

Submitting a test score can strengthen your application by providing an additional indicator of your abilities and achievements, in the context of all of your application materials. Selective test optional schools have seen vastly increased application rates, so including your ACT score could help you stand out in a crowded field of applicants. That said, if you have a choice in whether to submit your test scores and you don’t believe your scores are an accurate reflection of your abilities, don’t submit them.

We know, it’s confusing. The important thing to remember is, test optional policies are not consistent across schools. Researching individual admission requirements and talking to colleges about how they use test scores is key in determining whether to submit scores.

The truth is, it depends. It’s important for you to ask questions of the college or university you are considering to fully understand how various admissions criteria are weighted and which aspects are most important. Some schools still prefer test scores, even if they say they are test optional. This is because scores are used for a variety of purposes, not just in admissions decisions. Test scores help colleges recruit students, place them in the most appropriate courses for their skill level, and even support students who may be behind in certain academic subjects.

Students with an ACT test score qualify for more scholarships. Even test-optional colleges often require a test score when awarding merit-based scholarships. Without an ACT score, you could be missing out on thousands of dollars in scholarship money.