New College Testing Standards in the Pandemic


Kate Beal, Reporter

For many high school students, the ACT and SAT tests play a major role in the college admissions process. Although, like most things in the education system, that is starting to change. Due to COVID-19, many colleges are becoming test-optional, allowing applicants to apply without submitting any SAT or ACT scores.


According to IvyWise, a company that helps students apply to colleges, 72% of colleges have some test-optional policies in 2021. Many of those colleges only made that adjustment this year, although some of their policies will extend beyond 2021.


Dara Smith, a Park City High School counselor, estimated only about ten percent of Park City students applied as test-optional in past years.


“If a student expresses to me their fear…like, my GPA is really really great, but my test scores aren’t, then I would suggest, do you know about test-optional schools?” said Smith.  


Smith explained that over the past five to eight years, colleges were starting to shift away from traditional college testing, especially for highly selective colleges. This year, however, the gradual shift toward test-optional policies was boosted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The main reason for this change was the availability of testing. Despite the challenge of the pandemic brought, neither the SAT nor the ACT is currently available to be taken online. Although, according to the ACT website, they are currently working on a remote testing solution.


The College Board, the company that runs the SAT, hasn’t offered any online solution. Therefore, they encouraged colleges not to blame applicants for not submitting test scores during the pandemic.


Test optional policies are not the only recent changes to college testing. On January 19, the College Board announced that after June 2021, they will be discontinuing the SAT optional essay section.


The College Board Blog says that “There are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing, and the SAT will continue to measure writing throughout the test.”


The College Board has also discontinued Subject Tests in the United States, which were tests on specific colleges that applicants could provide on their application. Many prestigious or specialized colleges required or strongly encouraged them.


The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary,” said the College Board Blog.


Despite these changes in the college testing world, the societal perception hasn’t changed with it.  


Smith explained that “Even though colleges say [tests are] less important, there’s a lot of parental banter that has kept the emphasis of them alive and well.”


“More than anything, I think all of us counselors try to support students to know that colleges put a lot more emphasis on who they are as a being … versus one Saturday very stressful long test,” she said.