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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students in the US and around the world have not been able to take their standardized tests for undergrad admissions. Therefore, many US colleges and universities have adjusted their standardized test requirements by becoming test optional for those applying for a spot in the class of 2025. Since it is unclear whether schools will be test optional in years after the 2020-2021 application season, this blog will focus on those applying for a spot in the class of 2025. But there looms a question: Should you submit your standardized test score or withhold it?

Step 1: Examine Your Current Academic History

Secondary schools vary widely based on the courses they offer and the grading scale used to evaluate students. An ‘A’ at one school can be much harder to attain than an ‘A’ at another school. Therefore, many colleges and universities use non-SAT/ACT standardized tests to evaluate the academic rigor of your transcript. Some of these tests include AP and IB exams as well as SAT II Subject Tests. If you got a ‘B’ in a class but a ‘5’ on the corresponding AP exam, then admissions officers will know that the class was most likely quite rigorous and prepared you well. However, if you got an ‘A’ in a class but a ‘3’ on the AP exam, then eyebrows will be raised as the academic rigor of your classes will be scrutinized.
If you have strong standardized test scores that attest to the rigor of your transcript, then you may not need to submit an SAT/ACT score. However, if your standardized test results look like you randomly bashed numbers on the keyboard, then it is imperative to submit a strong SAT/ACT score to make a case that you will be academically admissible to the schools you are looking at.

Step 2: Evaluate Your Test Score and Look at Your Schools’ Deadlines

Let’s say your standardized test score was not what you had hoped for. If you are applying Early Decision to a school, then it would be too late to retake the SAT/ACT. However, if you have school deadlines in January and beyond, then you may have time to squeeze in a standardized test date in November or December. Keep in mind that this test date WILL be your last opportunity to attain the score you are hoping for (unless you decide to take a gap year).

Step 3: Check Out Your Schools’ Middle 50% Standardized Test Scores

A trap that many people fall into is that they would Google search the average standardized test scores for a school and use that as their benchmark. Don’t do this! For example, if you search up Emory University’s average ACT scores on Google, you will see that the middle 50% range is 31-34. However, if you look on their admissions page, you will see that the middle 50% range for the class of 2024 is 32-35. Always look at a school’s admissions page for information rather than using Google or a site such as Niche.
If your test score falls on the lower end of your schools’ middle 50% range, then it would be advisable to withhold your score. Schools’ admitted statistics generally increase with each year and if they are test optional this year, then there won’t be many people who will submit a test score that is below the middle 50% range. Thus, the middle 50% range will most likely increase (and in some cases, increase dramatically) for most schools this upcoming application season.

To Sum it All Up

The decision on whether to send your test scores or not depends on the schools you are aiming for and your academic profile. If you already have strong results in other areas, then not sending in an SAT/ACT score should be fine. However, middling scores on non-SAT/ACT exams would warrant a strong SAT/ACT score to make up for a questionable academic profile.

Step 5: What’s Next?

Now, you know what to do with your SAT/ACT score. But what exactly is a “strong” academic profile? And is your overall profile in shape for the schools of your choice?
With experience in getting into some of the world’s most prestigious universities, consultants at Prep Zone have the answers to these questions. Schedule a free consultation at or call +65 6812 9999.

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Author Jeremy

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