back to Admissions Advice
07/26/2020 at 10:16PM[edited]


I'm a rising senior, and I'm still in the process of deciding whether standardized testing is a good idea for me. I haven't been satisfied with my scores on both the ACT and SAT, but I'm showing small yet steady improvement on both types. Is it worth it for me to submit a score I'm only semi-satisfied with? I'm asking because I have the optimal GPA, resume, and EC situation for top 20 schools, and I'm taking classes and participating in EC programs that I truly love.

I'm interested in some Ivies and other top 20 schools. Do you think that not submitting a test score with these sorts of stats would be okay? Especially with these top tier schools, test-optional does not mean test-blind... unless they are? (Meaning: can colleges reject me and accept another person with identical credentials, just because they have a test score and I don't?) I'm worried that sending in my "eh" scores will wreck my application, but I'm also worried that having one less data point might set off a red flag for AOs.

NewYou earn karma when your answer is accepted or upvoted.

3 answers

07/27/2020 at 06:30PM

If your score isn't in the middle 50% range, it's not a good idea to submit it. Having a strong test score (in the upper end of the middle 50% or above it) will always help, even if a school is test-optional. Very few schools are test-blind, and as @CameronBameron said, only Caltech in the top 20 is (for 2 years). If a school is deciding between two otherwise-qualified candidates, but one has a test score, and the other doesn't, the student with the test score is more likely to be accepted.

If you have the time and resources to take the SAT or ACT again, it's definitely worth a shot. That said, it has been difficult to get a spot given the current situation. In the end, if you can't test and improve your score, know that many other students are in the same boat. The best thing to do in that case is to focus on what you can control, like writing standout essays.

Hope this helps, and let me know if you have more questions!

Accepted Answer
@DebaterMAX07/27/2020 at 06:41PM

Hey @maplecream how similiar is your answer to mine. I’m trying to tell if I missed anything in the answer or comments. Thank you! I just want to get better at this.

07/27/2020 at 09:36PM [edited]

Hey @DebaterMAX! You gave good advice about the middle 50%, but test-blind actually does mean that a college won't look at your score at all, even if submitted. The Ivies aren't test-blind but test-optional, meaning that they will consider a score, if submitted. Students who have a good score will always have an advantage over those with no score, at least at test-optional schools.

07/27/2020 at 09:37PM

It is very true though that AOs can weigh certain things differently. There's this really interesting YT video where a student reads his admissions file from UMich, and you see how different people reading the same file can come to totally different conclusions:

07/27/2020 at 09:37PM

Hope this helps, and thanks for being so active in our forum! :)

@DebaterMAX07/27/2020 at 09:39PM [edited]

I had thought I said blind vs optional. I’m sorry hope you have a great day!

07/27/2020 at 10:03PM

Oh, you're right! I thought you were saying that the Ivies were test-blind since it looked like it was in the same sentence. That was my bad - you did mention the right distinction. Hope you have a great day too!

@DebaterMAX07/27/2020 at 10:05PM

I had thought so :-) I went and cleared that up!

[🎤 AUTHOR]@jordiii07/28/2020 at 05:43PM

Thanks @maplecreamcookies! Do you have any more insight as to what role my strong EC profile and resume will play in the process?

07/28/2020 at 06:58PM

A strong profile otherwise will definitely help! If you don't submit test scores, your GPA and transcript will have more weight in their academic evaluation, so if you have strong academics, that works in your favor. Your ECs and essays may also be more heavily scrutinized as evidence of potential to succeed.

07/28/2020 at 07:00PM

It's just generally better to have a test score if you can get one (and a good one), as non-submitters are accepted at lower rates than those who submit. Even if they aren't perfect metrics, these tests are really the only standardized way to compare applicants.

07/26/2020 at 11:35PM[edited]

So for top 20s it will depend on the AO seeing the application they might worship the SAT scores or they can worship non SAT scores so it is kinda hit and miss. With that said due to the situation if you don’t submit them they will likely believe you have just missed the testing date so that will likely wipe it out. Also test optional means during admission if they aren’t submitted the AO will pretend like SAT never existed for your application.

To clear something up testblind means the AOs don’t even look at SAT IF submitted.

Depending on your SAT if it is in the mid 50% I’d say submit it. You can find I’m the middle 50% by googling mid 50% school name sat.

Really hope this helps and if you have any questions to my wordy reposence I’ll be happy to answer them. Best of luck!

@DebaterMAX07/26/2020 at 11:36PM [edited]

TL DR: Don’t submit them if not in mid 50%. Test Op means SATs are not evaluted if not submitted.

[🎤 AUTHOR]@jordiii07/27/2020 at 01:13AM

That's what I thought! I'm in NY, so the tests haven't been help for many months now, and probably will still be cancelled a few more times. Do you think that if I applied ED somewhere, they'd be quicker to look past my absence of (or lackluster) scores?

@DebaterMAX07/27/2020 at 01:37AM

Depends on the school. But in ED it will come down to how much a school weighs test scores. And the AOs impression they might think SATs are the holy grail of college admissions while another might only care about gpa rigor and ECs. It’s very coin flip-y

@crsgo042207/27/2020 at 02:28PM

ahah fellow New Yorker here! i honestly recommend that you just take them and see what happens. for now prep as hard as you can to get at least a 33 or a 1500, and if you don’t have those scores by the time it comes to apply then just don’t submit. it’s the unfortunate reality of these things; maybe applying ED will help, but I also think that if you’re applying ED and don’t have ANY test score it might be suspicious. Idk honestly. I would just take it and hope for the best :,)

@crsgo042207/27/2020 at 02:29PM

also - idk if this would be possible but some of my friends are driving to nearby Connecticut and NJ to take their exams, so worst-case if they get cancelled here again you could try to register there. Idk if it’s worth the effort though but it’s just another possibility

[🎤 AUTHOR]@jordiii07/27/2020 at 02:52PM

I've actually tried to take tests as far away as Philly... all seats taken. Fingers crossed for the next registration!

@DebaterMAX07/27/2020 at 03:07PM

Good luck!

@DebaterMAX07/27/2020 at 03:09PM

Also, depending on where you are in NY try looking at Vermont or western Massachusetts? Idk if that’s feasible for you

@crsgo042207/27/2020 at 03:11PM

wow that’s crazy… good luck!! :,) just wondering which dates are you signed up for? if they’re somewhat far apart like mine (september and november) you could also just waltz into the first one to get a feel of where you’re at and then do some serious prep for the second one.

[🎤 AUTHOR]@jordiii07/27/2020 at 03:50PM [edited]

I was able to register for Sep 26th for the SAT (I'm re-retying both tests), but the ACT site is glitchy beyond belief. *Sigh*

07/26/2020 at 11:44PM[edited]

If you send an "eh" score it might hurt you. (I'm assuming you think "eh" is missing the 25% to 75% percentile range)

If you send a great score it will most likely help you no matter what the public record states.

Remember only CalTech in the Top 20 is Test Blind, the other 19 schools will look at the scores if you submit them.

It would be politically incorrect for any college official to communicate that different parts of the application be weighted more given their newly adopted Test-Optional policies. Therefore, if you put yourself in the seat of the admissions officer reviewing and deciding on which application to advocate for, a.) the A student with all the checkboxes marked for great ECs, Recommendations, Essays, Rigor, Community service but no test scores or b.) the other student who has the same "apples to apples" checkboxes marked but 1500 SAT score and (2) 750 subject test scores, the latter will get the nod over the former. Why wouldn't they hedge their bets that the test score submitter may perform better? Therefore you should decide for yourself whether you are going to grind for the rest of the summer to be ready for 11 possible dates or not. Only you can make that decision on what to register for and when. Your practice test scores will give you a reasonable level for your score. So if you get 1400-1500s on your SAT, you should get a 1450 +/-75 pts. And if you get a 32-34 on your ACT, you should get a 33 +/- 2 points on the real thing. I just took my 2nd ACT after it was canceled in April and June and I feel a sense of relief. If I don't get my target score, I can still retake it in Sept or Oct. Yes, it's a pain. I had to drive an hour away from my zip code to take it. I had to wear a mask for 4 hours. I had to take it with strangers. But I don't regret being patient for a test date to open up and power through the process.

ACT Test Dates

Saturday, September 12

Sunday, September 13

Saturday, September 19

Saturday, October 10

Saturday, October 1

Saturday, October 24

Sunday, October 25

SAT Test Dates

Saturday, August 29

Saturday, September 26

Saturday, October 3

Saturday, November 7

@DebaterMAX07/26/2020 at 11:49PM

Agree if the profiles are exact same but one has no test scores the other has good test scores (low 1500s high 1400s) the good score person would be admitted.

[🎤 AUTHOR]@jordiii07/27/2020 at 12:58AM

I admire your work ethic when it came to these tests! I actually did sign up for the next two ACTs and the next SAT, so we'll see what happens! But what if my resume and ECs are more involved than the other person with a stellar score? How do you think that'd turn out?

@DebaterMAX07/27/2020 at 01:43AM

Then it comes down to AO preference. Let’s say you are a sporting person and the AO was bullied by jocks then bias might kick in. And it also depends on how much more impressive such as district wide compared to nation wide. But if I had to pick a student I’d pick someone with upper end of mid 50% test scores compared to someone with none if the ECs are in the same ballpark. (Great EC state awards + 4impressive ECs + 1 National rank compared to Good EC 10 impressive ECs) is id pick the

@DebaterMAX07/27/2020 at 01:44AM

Sat and good EC guy over no sat and excellent EC but it’s preference of the AO. Hope this helps.

@CameronBameron07/27/2020 at 05:19AM

@jordi thanks for the compliment. I appreciate it. To answer your hypothetical, I think having deeper and sharper spikes is always best. You just have to decide whether to submit once you retake them. Good night.