Why Your SAT and ACT Scores Matter in 2023

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Why Your SAT and ACT Scores Matter in 2023

Why Your SAT and ACT Scores Matter in 2023

The importance of SAT and ACT scores is not a thing of the past. 

While there are a select number of colleges, or test blind schools, that do not look at test scores, there are far more schools that will take your test scores into account if you submit them.

A strong SAT or ACT score provides a good opportunity for students with less competitive GPAs to provide a separate metric of academic performance. And for students with top GPAs, an SAT or ACT score shows that they can handle rigor on all fronts. Plus, higher test results may get you scholarships from your university or academic program.

We know a high SAT or ACT score can turn a good college application into a great college application. But what else can a top SAT or ACT score do for your college admissions package?

Read on to find out!

Why are SAT or ACT scores important to colleges?

If you’ve read MEK Review’s Top 10 Admission Factors, you know that your college test scores rank second only to your GPA as the most important factor on your college application. This can place a lot of pressure on students to perform well on the SAT or ACT, especially if your top choice is known for being highly competitive or selective.

The college admissions board has a lot of reasons to inquire about your SAT or ACT scores, and not all of them are what you think.

Here are three important reasons why you have to include your test results on your college application:

Reason #1. Test scores help them review applications faster.

Scores can make or break whether your application is even reviewed!

The number of students applying to colleges keeps growing every year, even though the number of admissions staff that must review applications stays mostly the same.

This means admission officers have hundreds of applications to review and are looking for quick ways to place applications into the rejection pile. Glancing quickly at test scores is one of the main ways admission officers decide if your application will even receive a serious review.

In fact, according to Forbes magazine’s college admissions expert Steve Cohen, “at the very selective college and universities, there is a very scary reality: if you don’t have a 700/700 [SAT score], you’re just not getting on the table.”

Reason #2. High test scores make THEM look good.

You might think colleges care about test scores because they want to see your aptitude and mastery of high school material.

This is not completely true.

Most colleges report publicly the average SAT and ACT score of their freshmen class. The higher the average the more prestigious they appear.

Colleges care deeply about increasing their reputation and exclusivity, and test scores are a key way they can accomplish this. So much so that even schools that purport to not care about test scores, do care!

This is one of the key reasons schools allow SuperScoring – a score process in which they only formally review your highest score in each section of the SAT or ACT. It’s not a kindness, it’s so they can report higher average test scores!

It’s the same for test-optional schools. Usually, the students who choose to submit test scores are those who scored high. The result? Usually the year after a school becomes test-optional, their average SAT score for incoming freshmen goes up. And consequently, they look good. Learn how MEK can help you shoot for the high 1500s and even the elite 1600!

Reason #3. Test score ranges encourage future applications.

A school’s average SAT or ACT score range doesn’t tell the whole story.

When colleges report the range of SAT or ACT scores that their freshmen class achieved, they usually give the 25th and 75th percentile. This reflects the average score range for that incoming class.

For example, you might see a university whose entering class had a 25th-75th  SAT range of 1300-1500. If you earned a 1330, you might think you have a great shot at acceptance.

In truth, unless you have other outstanding parts of your application, your chances of admission are fairly small.

The bottom half of a school’s test score range reflects students with other decisive application factors such as athletics, performing arts, or other special distinctions. For a strong chance, you need to score closer to the 75th percentile.

Why don’t colleges make this clear?

They want to encourage many students to apply because the more applicants they have, the more they can reject, and the more their prestige grows.

This is even true of test-optional schools. When a college doesn’t require students to submit test scores, the number of applicants increases. However, they do not similarly raise the number of acceptances. The lower acceptance rate (the percentage of total applicants a school accepts) raises their reputation as “exclusive” and “selective.”

Keep in Mind: Test-optional Colleges DO look at your scores

Just because a school is “test-optional” 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.

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 can you best 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

Being prepared is the key to success on the SAT or ACT. Make sure you use your study sessions to the fullest. 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 exam. If your test day is coming up, here’s some tips from Director of Exam Prep English, Ms. Rachel Erwin, on how to study efficiently.

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

In 2022, the average SAT score was 1060, while the average ACT score was 24.8. This means that the overall applicant pool will likely have a lower average SAT or ACT scores.

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. Research colleges’ unique test policies

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 and ACT 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!

If you want to boost your admission chances to elite schools check out our SAT Prep Program! Through expert guidance and individualized support, our experienced instructors teach you the skills and strategies to walk into test day with confidence and reach your goal score, regardless of where you are in your SAT prep journey!

And for students preparing for the ACT, check out our ACT Connect Program! ACT Connect is a self-paced, virtual lecture series that combines lesson modules, quality material and assignments, and ACT simulation tests to get you to your goal score. We have a variety of packages from full test to subject specific reviews. Click here to learn more!

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 Director of Academic Counseling Services 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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