The True Meaning of “Test Optional” in the COVID Era

Due to Covid-19, many colleges have gone test-optional this year. Over four hundred colleges do not require students to take standardized tests. However, competitive schools such as Dartmouth, Yale, Brown University, and Stanford have not changed their requirements regarding the SAT and ACT. Some ivy schools like Harvard and Princeton have been more flexible with the SAT subject tests and give no penalty to students who are unable to take them. Furthermore, Tufts and the College of William and Mary have issued a three-year pause to the SAT and ACT submissions, giving those who could not take their tests due to coronavirus an equal shot of getting in.

The College Board is taking some of the responsibility for canceled exams, making sure that more options are available for students to take the standardized tests and supporting colleges that are not strict about submission. According to the College Board, 46% of the test centers were closed due to Covid-19. 402,000 students were unable to take the SAT in August. Centers that do allow testing have to follow the College Board’s strict rules regarding the outbreak, including requiring students to wear masks throughout the entirety of the test and making sure that students are seated six feet apart. 

Although many universities are being more flexible with their testing policies, some students still feel that it is in their best interest to take standardized exams. Leila Elashmawy, a senior at RHS, took an “SAT course with hopes of taking the test in March only to find out it was canceled.” When the exam was also cancelled in May and June due to COVID-19 restrictions, Elashmawy was frustrated, stating that the cancelation “was one more thing of my Junior year to worry about.” She was able to take the test in August but says it “was overall annoying because it is something that I ideally would have completed earlier.”

Although schools have been flexible with admissions, some scholarship applications still require students to take the tests. In some cases, the test scores may help boost the students’ application. Students argue that tests being taken away may lower their chances of getting in. Without SAT and ACT scores to look at, colleges will have to admit students based on their GPA and extracurriculars. Depending on how applications go this year, phasing out the standardized testing may be the new normal with colleges. 

Melike Yesil
Staff Writer

Graphic: Tess Cundiff

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