New Frontiers in Standardized Testing
I recently had to do a deep dive into standardized testing strategy and planning when a student of mine with a perfect ACT and nearly perfect AP scores was trying to decide what to do about taking and submitting SAT Subject Test Scores, which were coming out lower than the other tests he had taken. For students looking at the most highly selective colleges (e.g. any Ivy, plus the “little Ivies” in the Northeast), it used to be that at least 2 Subject tests were expected, if not required. However, with building concerns about how much testing pressure we are putting students under as well as a greater appreciation of the unfairness of expecting Subject Test scores from kids who lack good college counseling advice, have trouble affording lots of testing, or are from less strong school districts, highly selective colleges have begun de-emphasizing the Subject Tests. See Compass Prep’s excellent compilation of requirements: https://www.compassprep.com/subject-test-requirements-and-recommendations/
While the de-emphasis of Subject Tests is great for many students, it has upset a system that used to be fairly clear (and there is VERY little about the American system of applying to colleges that IS clear!). Some colleges, or schools within colleges, still require Subject Tests, others recommend them (but really expect them from nearly everyone) and still others say that they will consider them if submitted. And some colleges provide misleading, contradictory or mixed messages when asked about what they want to see. The result can be a rabbit hole for research and strategizing, depending upon what schools a student is applying to and his or her overall testing record and other qualifications.
More and more colleges and universities are going “test optional” as well, although few of the most highly selective colleges have taken this step so far. See Fairtest’s website: https://www.fairtest.org/university/optional. This has been a fantastic development for students who do well in their classes but just can’t crack the code on standardized testing. The beauty of “test optional” is that strong test takers who score at or above a college’s published testing averages can still submit their scores and realize advantages in the application process…so the policy is a win-win from my perspective.
The upshot is that much of the standardized testing landscape is in flux right now, and each year brings new changes that affect how a student should put together their standardized testing plan. Getting advice from an expert is very helpful.