Test Optional and Test Blind

Test Optional and Test Blind

Test optional first became news in the early 1970s when Dick Moll, then the Director of Admissions, declared that Bowdoin College would no longer require the SAT or ACT as part of the admissions process. Since then, hundreds of colleges and universities have followed suit, most notably many liberal arts colleges. The Covid pandemic has expanded the number of test optional institutions to include most of the colleges in the country at least on a temporary basis. Some institutions are taking this one step further and are test blind. So, what is the difference?

What is the difference between test optional and test blind?

  • Test optional leaves the decision to submit the SAT and/or ACT results up to the student. It requires a judgment call as to whether the scores will help or hinder the chances for admission.
  • Test blind means that the college will neither consider nor accept any test results from the student.

Who should submit scores?

  • Typically, students who have scores that fall within or above the range of those accepted to the institution should submit their scores as it will support or add strength to their academic profile.
  • Students who have test scores that fall in the lower end of the range may want to discuss submission with their counselor.

Who should not submit scores?

  • Students with lower scores are generally advised not to submit and will be evaluated on the strength of their transcript as well as other supporting materials such as recommendations, essays, resume etc.

Who does test optional serve best?

  • It has helped underserved students who do not have access to private tutors, test prep courses and, in many cases, strong academic support in their schools. These students have historically tended to have lower test scores. It also serves first generation students.

Who gets little to no benefit from test optional?

  • Students of privilege who have had access to excellent schools, tutoring, test prep, academic support and counseling.
  • Students who do have access to this kind of scaffolding and extra help but choose not to submit scores are generally assumed to have testing that will not add strength to their application despite the extra help they had. For these students, test optional generally does not help.
  • A confusing issue is that a few of the most competitive colleges that have chosen to go test optional during Covid, encourage submission of testing for those who are able to access test centers and have been able to prepare for testing.

Who benefits from test blind?

  • Test blind is a win-win for everyone. Even if a student submits scores, the college will delete them; they do not look at scores from anyone. It truly levels the playing field. 
  • With no testing, however, it means more emphasis must be placed on the transcript. The strength of the academic program, the grades, and where the student places in the class become that much more important – for all applicants.
  • There are currently approximately 85 institutions that are test blind including all  University of California campuses, all California State campuses, California Institute of Technology, Dickinson College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and others. 

What is the takeaway?

  • Test optional is most beneficial to underserved students.   
  • This is a changing picture. While many institutions remain test optional for the 2021-2022 school year, it is unknown whether the most selective colleges will remain so after that. 
  • Some colleges have stated that they will remain test optional for several more years to accrue enough data to determine if non-submitters performed as well academically as those who did submit scores.

Resource guide created by Cindy Pendergast