Over the past few years, more and more universities in the US have been dropping certain standardized test requirements: Barnard College and Columbia University dropped the SAT Subject Test and SAT/ACT essay requirements, Hampshire College dropped all test requirements, and Harvard University dropped the SAT Subject Test. In fact, only 13 schools across the US require the SAT Subject Test; however, it looks like it may be in applicants’ best interests to submit scores regardless. If you look at university websites, you will see a lot of phrases like “not strictly required” and “recommend submitting scores.”
Why are universities going test-blind or test-optional?
Test-optional means applicants are not required to submit test scores, but the university will look at them should the student wish to submit them. Test-blind means that schools will not look at test scores under any circumstances.
So why are schools dropping test requirements or refusing to look at test scores at all? Well, studies have found little to no correlation between test scores and a student’s subsequent success at post-secondary school. Also, standardized tests create barriers for students from low-income families as tests can be expensive to take and to prepare for.
It is worth noting that test-optional and test-blind admissions is still pretty new and institutions will most likely be making changes to these procedures as more information becomes available about their effectiveness.
Should you take the tests anyway?
Short answer: yes. Some schools are only taking away the requirement of certain parts of the test. For example, Columbia dropped the essay portion of the SATs, but students may still be asked to submit scores for math and reading. And schools differ in terms of their entry requirements, so your best bet is to double and triple check the requirements for the schools you are considering and ensure you can meet all the requirements.
Moreover, if you are a strong student and test-taker, it might be worth your time to submit your scores to test-optional schools. The scores might just be what gets you accepted; the more positive information you can put into your application, the better. The nice thing about test-optional schools is that if you don’t do that well on the tests, then you don’t need to submit certain scores.
What can you do to ace the tests?
Currently, most students preparing for entrance exams use the blended learning approach. They enroll in schools and colleges, study in traditional classroom-based teaching environments, and simultaneously access various massive open online courses (MOOCs) and subscription-based online platforms.
However, online tutoring has taken off in recent years as the demand for flexible test preparation services has increased. Technavio analysts expect the K-12 online tutoring market in the Americas to grow at a CAGR of 13.16% from 2014 to 2021. As of 2015, the e-learning market in the US alone has grown eight-fold since 2008. Tutors can now use interactive whiteboards, VoIP services, and m-learning to improve their delivery method. There are also open-source online tutoring services available.
Tutoring services not only provide counseling services on courses to students but also update them on recent changes in the examination structure. For instance, new changes in the SAT 2016 exams included evidence-based reading and writing and no penalization for the selection of incorrect answers. These changes are quickly incorporated in materials and services provided by online tutoring service providers.
Online tutoring service providers use the newest technology to disseminate information. For example, vendors such as Club Z! Tutoring and Pearson provide content through mobile apps. These apps are compatible with any kind of operating systems, and hence can be accessed from anywhere. Other vendors use cloud-based methodologies, which support the use of multimedia resources, such as graphics, audio, text, and video, while creating lessons.
So after you’ve determined what tests you need to take, look into the tutoring companies that specialize in preparing students for those tests. From there, compare the learning styles. If you want to be able to take practice tests on your phone during your commute to work, make sure you choose an online tutoring service that includes m-learning. Once you’ve chosen an online tutoring system, it is time to crack those virtual books.
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