College Admissions: Score Choice & Test Optional

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Standardized Testing

Score Choice & Test Optional

Classroom ability doesn’t necessarily correlate into standardized testing success. When it comes to standardized tests, the more you practice, the more comfortable you will be with the test, and the higher score you will achieve. That said, our counselors advise that students take the SAT or ACT no more than three times. Students’ scores tend to plateau after the third time and subsequent attempts may look desperate to an admissions committee. For students who struggle with standardized testing, or whose test scores don’t accurately reflect their academic effort and ability, there are a few options.

Score Choice

Score Choice lets students choose which test scores (by test date for the SAT and by individual test for SAT Subject Tests) they send to a college (though different college have different score-use practices). So, if a school honors Score Choice, a student can choose which SAT scores and SAT Subject Test scores he or she will send to that school. Note: If you opt to send SAT scores from a particular date, scores from all sections (math, writing, and critical reading) from that test date will be sent; you cannot decide which sections to send.

It’s important to note, however, that College Board (who administers the SAT) and most schools that honor Score Choice still encourage applicants to send all of their scores, with the understanding that most schools will only consider a student’s best score. So, while schools such as Boston University, Duke University and Princeton University, for example, honor Score Choice, they strongly encourage applicants to submit every SAT score because each of these schools will consider only the highest section scores across all SAT test dates that are submitted (this is called superscoring).

On the other hand, schools such as Columbia University, Stanford University, and Tufts University, for example, do not honor Score Choice. This means that when a student is releasing his or her scores through the College Board website, he or she will be required to release every SAT score that is on record to these schools. Therefore it is very important that a student is fully prepared before sitting for a test.

The ACT does not offer a score choice program, so most colleges who superscore the SAT will evaluate applicants based on their highest ACT composite score from various test dates. It’s important to note that ACT superscoring is a little different from SAT superscoring; schools will not usually take different individual section scores from the ACT and calculate a new composite like they will for the SAT. They will only take the highest actual composite score.

Test Optional

There are currently more than 850 (and counting!) four-year colleges that do not require students to submit a standardized test score for admission. If you feel that your standardized testing scores do not truly reflect your academic ability, you might consider applying to one of these schools. Even some highly selective schools such as Bowdoin College, Middlebury College, and Pitzer College have become test optional (for a complete list of ACT/SAT optional schools, visit For these schools, Dr. Kat suggests that students send scores only when they are excellent and will enhance your application – you never want to give an admissions officer any reason to doubt your ability to perform.

Practice pays off when it comes to standardized tests (our tutors have seen score increases as high as 610 points on the SAT and 14 points on the ACT!) and these tests can be coached. But don’t go overboard in your quest for the perfect score. There are many schools that don’t require test scores, and those that do may offer options for presenting your best scores to the admissions committees. The truth is, your application is comprised of both your academic and your personal records, and your SAT or ACT score is just one piece of the whole pie.

What tests do students need to take, how can they prepare, and how much do standardized test scores really count toward college admission? Watch Dr. Kat on the Today Show with helpful test prep tips for parents and students.  

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