The Director's Corner

To Test or Not to Test … That is the Question

A test booklet, pencil, eraser, and stopwatch

There are many questions students and parents need to answer during the college search, but whether or not to take standardized tests (or how much emphasis to put on them) is a common dilemma. The conventional approach to college admission considers standardized testing, specifically taking the ACT or SAT, as a given. But, is it actually a “must”?

Some high school students believe standardized tests reflect their knowledge and potential for success in college, but other students question a standardized test’s ability to capture or accurately portray their knowledge or capacity for success in college. Still, there are other students who score “well” but don’t want to be judged on their test scores.

Central to the heart of CTCL’s tenets is the belief that the college search should be student-centered, and the process should be grounded in the student’s values. So, when it comes to deciding whether or not to take and submit standardized tests as part of the college application process, we encourage students and parents to consider the following questions:

  • On what criteria do you want applicants to be judged? (Ask this question even if you expect students to score well.)
  • Will the test score reflect the student’s ability? Passions? Engagement? Desire? Drive? Love of learning? Are there other, better ways students can convey this information to colleges?
  • Are test scores a measure that’s important to you? (Not to our society in general, but to you?)
  • Did you know that there are approximately 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities that do not require standardized testing for admission? Did you know 25 of the 45 CTCL-member schools are test-optional? (See the full list at FairTest.org.)

Finally, before making a decision about standardized testing—and how much energy, time, and possibly expense you’ll contribute to them—CTCL encourages students to discuss these questions with their families, college counselors, and admission representatives.

In my next post, I’ll explore how standardized testing is viewed, used, and valued by college admission offices.