Why the SAT and ACT still matter in the year of COVID-19

Student reading a book and taking notes

Why the SAT and ACT still matter in the year of COVID-19

The April ACT was rescheduled. The May and June SATs were cancelled. The next ACT date is June 20th, and the next SAT date is August 29th. On top of all of this, many colleges are becoming test optional.

At this point, you’re probably feeling frustrated and tired. The uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis is filling the SAT/ACT Prep journey with question marks:

  • Will I really be able to take my standardized tests on the days that I am preparing for?
  • Do I really need to be taking these tests, if most colleges aren’t even requiring test scores?

 

MEK Review is here to help!

Read below to find out why your SAT and ACT scores still matter and how to prep during these uncertain times.

Test-optional Colleges DO look at your scores

With the many SAT and ACT test cancellations and overall decrease in financial stability, most colleges are no longer requiring test scores on your application. Instead, they are “test-optional.”

Some colleges have even announced plans to continue with  this test-optional policy in future admission cycles. Colleges and universities have the responsibility of giving every person an equal chance at admissions, so in order to keep students of low-income families in the running (who is the group less likely to have access to the test), they have done away with their required tests.

However, this doesn’t mean that they will NOT look at test scores that are submitted to them.

It simply means, you are not required to submit scores.

Admissions officers are, first and foremost, people. If they see two students who have identical GPAs, but one has submitted high SAT or ACT scores, it is only natural for them to gravitate toward the safer bet.

Most high schools are implementing Pass/Fail grading systems for the current term, in which any grade above a D+ is considered a Pass and calculated as an A, or 99. For some schools, that means that as long as you attend class and complete the work to some capacity, you will be getting a 4.0 GPA for this semester! So two 4.0’s, even from the same high school, doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing any more.

That’s why, if you submit an SAT or ACT score that corroborates your GPA, your application will be much stronger, as your GPA will have more credibility, and on top of that, you are showing how well you performed in a timed and standardized testing setting.

To reiterate: not submitting a test score will not hurt you. But submitting a high test score will do wonders for your application!

How Best to Prepare for the SAT or ACT 

As long as your circumstances allow you to, you should definitely take the SAT or ACT.

As you prepare, keep these 4 tips in mind.

Tip #1. Prepare well and do well on your next test date

With all of the uncertainties of the crisis, no one knows if the next test date that you are preparing for will still be available. For current juniors, a later test date means fewer chances to take the SAT or ACT before Early and Regular applications are submitted. This means that the next time you take an exam, you need to do well, as it may be the last time you get to take it.

So make sure you are fully prepared. Get expert help, take several practice tests, and aim to hit your goal score at least twice on practice tests before you take the official.

Tip #2. Consider more selective colleges if you have strong grades

Average SAT and ACT scores for college admissions will be lower for the class of 2021.

Because there will be fewer opportunities to take standardized tests, fewer students will be able to submit multiple test scores to be superscored.

This means that the overall applicant pool will likely have a lower average SAT or ACT score.

This doesn’t mean you should relax. However, this does mean that if you have a less-than-great SAT/ACT score and a high GPA, this may be your opportunity to take your swing at some more selective colleges!

Tip #3. Boost Your Admission Chance with SAT Subject Tests

With even fewer opportunities to take SAT Subject Tests, many students are wondering if they should even bother with taking these additional tests.

However, similarly to how SAT/ACT scores will give support to your GPA, your SAT Subject Test scores will give support to your AP test scores.

With the changes to the Advanced Placement tests this year, colleges are acknowledging that AP test scores are probably not as accurate as markers of student performance as they were in previous years. The breadth of the exams are significantly truncated, and the exams are online and open-book.

A 5 on an AP test will not be considered in the same way as it has been in previous years. However, that 5 corroborated by a 750 or higher on an SAT Subject Test in the same subject will show that you do indeed have a strong command of the subject and topics.

Tip #4. Research colleges’ unique test policies

This year, it is more important than ever to research the testing policy of each school that you are planning on applying to.

Most highly selective schools with acceptance rates below 10% are still requiring SAT or ACT scores, while some others are strongly recommending them. Some schools that required SAT Subject Tests in previous years are softening their testing policies to either strongly recommend them or even say that they will not consider the scores at all.

Some schools have especially unique testing policies. For example, Carnegie Mellon University prefers SAT and ACT scores from after 10th grade, as they believe that test scores from 9th and 10th grade are not accurate markers of student performance.

So when you decide that you want to apply to a school, make sure to look up its specific testing policies to make sure that you have everything you need to apply to it.

Key Takeaway

Your SAT, ACT, and/or SAT Subject Test scores will provide a college admissions officer with greater reason to believe that your GPA and AP test scores are accurate reflections of the type of student you are, giving them more reason to grant you acceptance! 

Remember that schools don’t want to hear why you didn’t do something because of the circumstances, but rather, what you did accomplish despite the circumstances.

If you want to boost your admission chances to elite schools check out our College Admissions Counseling program! We also offer SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject classes that prepare students to earn top scores!

You can call 855-346-1410 or contact us here for more information.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

Jaehee Ahn

Jaehee Ahn is MEK Review's College Counseling Coordinator and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. She is also an alumnus of MEK Review's SAT Prep program. If you have any questions about our College Counseling programs or wish to set up a consultation, you can email Jaehee at acs@mekreview.com.

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