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Colleges Going Test-Optional – What Does It Mean For You?

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

If you are a high-school student applying to US colleges for a Fall 2022 admission, you’re probably really confused as to what’s going on with the standardized testing requirements.

The Confusion

With colleges such as Harvard, Stanford, Brown, Columbia, UPenn and Cornell going test-optional, the question remains, should you be taking the SAT/ACT or not? To add to the confusion, with CollegeBoard discontinuing the Subject Tests (after June exam for International Students), students are also unsure whether those tests will now be considered in the admissions process or not.

Hopefully this article will point you in the right direction!

Should you still take the SAT/ACT?

The simple answer is a ‘YES!’ While some of the top colleges in the US have gone test-optional, a lot of the other ones haven’t. Since we all know that it’s good to keep your college options open, it is recommended for you to take the SAT/ACT exam as it doesn’t limit your college list in any way. Moreover, after interacting with various admissions officers over the last few months (mostly for 2021 admissions), I found out that while test-optional is a great policy, it also creates a lot of confusion for colleges in the admissions review, and a lot of competition for the students who have applied. How so?

  1. Confusion for colleges – It’s very simple. Two years ago, when students applied to colleges, the admissions team had two data points to evaluate a student’s academics – the high-school transcripts and the SAT/ACT score. When you take one of those data points away (SAT/ACT), colleges can only rely on the high-school transcripts. Since there are so many different education curriculums around the world (IGCSE’s, A-Levels, IB MYP, IBDP, CBSE, ICSE, ISC to name a few), it is extremely hard for colleges to evaluate students that are coming from so many different academic curriculums and backgrounds. Furthermore, your ‘school profile’ also plays a key role. It can either help you a lot, or not help you at all. The bottom line is that SAT/ACT acts as a level-playing field, so take the exam if you can!

  2. Competition for students – Inevitably, when two academic data points are reduced to only one, it allows more room for students to compete for the same seats in a college. From the college’s perspective, this is a great thing as they have lots of talented students to pick from (not that they didn’t have that before). However, for student’s, it can definitely be a bit nerve-wracking. So, while the test-optional policy is great, I would recommend students taking the SAT/ACT exam anyway. You can later evaluate whether you want to submit that score or not.

How to Pick a Test-Center?

Lots of questions came with this pandemic, including this one. With so many test cancellations around the world, it’s extremely tough for students to stay motivated. Some of my own clients studied for months, taking 20+ practice tests and investing lots of time and effort in test-prep, only to find out that their test had been cancelled. Instead of wasting that time, they could have been doing something far more valuable. Hence, making sure that you pick a reliable test-center can change the game for you.

Luckily for Fall 2022 students, there has been a general trend over the last 10 months as to where the SAT/ACT was successfully conducted versus where it was cancelled. For example, cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Gurgaon have faced lots of cancellations. Whereas cities such as Goa and Surat have been extremely successfully at conducting most of their SAT/ACT exams. I am not an expert at which center you should pick, and nobody can guarantee whether the exam will definitely take place or not, but try and pick cities where Covid cases are low.

Finally, What About the Subject Tests?

Unlike 2 years ago, when Subject Tests were a requirement by colleges like MIT, Caltech, Stanford, Ivy Leagues (and a few more in that category of colleges), they are not a requirement anymore. Just like SAT/ACT, most colleges now have a test-optional policy where you can choose to submit your scores if you want them to be considered.

However, with CollegeBoard discontinuing the Subject Test, there is a high chance that colleges may suspend the test completely – meaning they won’t consider it at all. Personally, I believe that even if they still keep the test-optional policy, they may not truly consider them in the admissions review. The reason I say this is because Subject Tests are already discontinued in the US. Hence, none of the American students will be able to take the test in 2021. And I really doubt that American colleges will consider a test score which most of the student population cannot even appear for. Therefore, it is a good idea to change your focus from the Subject Tests to something else – SAT/ACT, AP exams and/or profile building activities.


  1. Take the SAT/ACT as it can still help your admission chances even at test-optional colleges

  2. Pick a test-center in a city where Covid cases are low

  3. Contemplate whether to apply test-optional or not after the SAT/ACT score is available

  4. It is okay to forgo the Subject Test unless there is a college on your ‘Applying’ list which requires it

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions. We would love to help you pick the right strategy.

Be well and stay safe,

Abhinav Nath

NexTrack Consulting

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