To ACT, SAT or Not

As summer comes to an end, we begin another school year dictated by COVID-19. Many of the educational adjustments made as a result of the virus have prompted students, parents and educators to consider how these changes will continue into the future. For instance, standardized tests, including the SAT and ACT, were temporarily waived by colleges and universities during the pandemic. This to alleviate the burden placed on incoming freshmen. Some institutions have considered making this a permanent change. Recently, the University of California (U.C.) system voted to discontinue SAT and ACT requirements for incoming students. While these standardized tests have long been touted as seemingly reliable benchmarks for college preparedness, many people disagree and feel that there are more holistic means by which students can be assessed. The U.C.’s decision makes an impactful statement regarding the necessity of such assessments, and will likely have an effect on university admissions across the country. Amid these changes, students and parents worry about the implications and ask the question, to ACT, SAT or not?

The argument for testing

To clarify, the reality is that standardized testing will likely remain relevant. At least for the foreseeable future. Although not entirely fair, these tests help colleges assess students from different contexts, environments and backgrounds in an effort to level the playing field. This is thought to be quite true among high schools that use different grading systems. Admissions representatives, overall, haven’t found a more widely agreed upon and reliable replacement just “yet.” Until a new methodology is established, it is in students’ best interests to take these tests if, and when, they can. These scores will still have some weight In addition, they will help an applicant stand out among similar applicants who may not have submitted exam scores. To admissions officers, test score submission can exemplify a student’s dedication to education—a passion for going above and beyond. So to answer to ACT, SAT or not, there are some positives to test.

Benefits of testing

Test scores do indeed provide a uniform and systematized measurement. Moreover, the process of preparing for these tests offers some long-term benefits for students. Not only does targeted and sustained preparation help students attain their utmost performance on these exams, but it also allows students to cultivate an arsenal of tools, creative ingenuity, critical thinking and problem-solving techniques, mental stamina and personal insight, all of which will better equip them to manage the rigorous academics of post-secondary education.

The future of standardized tests

For schools veering toward test-optional, the restructuring of how applicants are evaluated moving forward will prove imperative. Although the U.C.’s monumental and ambitious decision to phase-out the use of these tests in admissions is thoughtful and influential, the future of the SAT and ACT, in general, remains unclear. Standardized tests, however, which provide hard, uniform data, are still essential to the U.C.’s–and to many other institutions–when assessing out-of-state applicants, merit-based scholarship contenders, and even course placement levels. Thus, in shifting away from the widely used tests, the U.C.’s admitted their vested interest in developing their very own testing system. Now new measures to account for differences among various admissions tests will need to be presented, and students will find themselves face-to-face with yet another standardized assessment to manage and learn. Clearly, schools are still clinging to objective data measures to streamline an otherwise very subjective process.

Bottom line: despite the reign of SAT/ACT and their efficacy falling under closer scrutiny, standardized tests, in general, don’t appear to be going anywhere.


Cindy Chanin, a former Ivy admissions rep and nationally sought-after educational consultant, is the founder of Rainbow EDU Consulting & Tutoring, created with the intention to transform lives through the power of personalized education and enrichment.



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