College Entrance Exam Requirements: What Parents Need to Know

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As your child navigates the path to higher education, understanding the landscape of college entrance exam requirements is critical. 

With Yale, Dartmouth, and Brown announcing the reinstatement of college entrance exam requirements, we are seeing further shifts in policies among many colleges regarding standardized testing. 

Here is a breakdown of the current situation and what it means for your child’s college application approach.

Test Optional, Test Blind, or Test Required?

Colleges across the United States fall into three general categories regarding standardized tests:

1. Test Blind: In these institutions, submitting an ACT or SAT score doesn’t influence the admissions process. Notably, the California State University (Cal State) and University of California (UC) systems have adopted this policy. However, submitting scores might still aid in course placement. It’s important to verify each institution’s specific stance. 

2. Test Optional: Many selective colleges, such as Vanderbilt, Stanford, Fordham, and the University of Michigan, have embraced a test-optional approach. This means that while standardized test scores are not required, they are still considered if submitted. Students have the choice to include their scores as part of their application.

3. Test Required: Some institutions, including MIT, Georgetown, and public schools in Florida and Georgia, maintain a policy where submission of SAT or ACT scores is mandatory. Scores play a significant role in the admissions decision-making process.

Yale’s New Test Flexible Policy

In addition to these categories, it’s worth mentioning Yale University’s new test-flexible policy. Under this policy, applicants have the option to submit scores from standardized tests including the SAT, ACT, AP exams, or IB exams. This approach provides students with flexibility, allowing them to showcase their academic strengths through various assessment methods.

We see evidence that many test-optional schools have accounted for exam submissions for their admissions similarly, so students taking AP or IB curriculum are wise to prepare and do their best on their exams.

The Relevance of Standardized Tests

Amidst debates about their efficacy, standardized tests remain relevant. One key factor is their role in addressing grade inflation. As the percentage of As awarded to high school students has risen, standardized tests serve as a benchmark of academic capability and rigor.

Also, standardized tests like the SAT and ACT offer a measure of students’ academic readiness for college-level work. They provide admissions officers with a consistent metric to evaluate students from diverse educational backgrounds.

As time goes on from the pandemic, one can anticipate that test-optional school admission policies will increasingly move to favor or require students to submit scores like the recent Ivy League announcements.

The Value of AP and IB Courses

If offered at your child’s high school, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses and exams hold significant value in the college admissions process. These programs demonstrate a student’s ability to manage college-level coursework. Additionally, success in AP and IB exams can result in college credits, allowing students to accelerate their academic progress and potentially save on tuition costs. 

Among our clients, numerous students have saved a semester or more due to their AP or IB course credits, saving families significant costs. However, policies regarding AP and IB credits vary. While some colleges may accept a score of 3 or above for credit, others may require a higher score or impose limits on the number of credits awarded.

Planning for Your Child’s Test Approach

Given the diverse landscape of college entrance exam requirements, it’s essential for parents to strategize accordingly. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Research College Policies: Familiarize yourself with the standardized testing policies of the colleges your child is interested in. Understanding whether a college is test-blind, test-optional, or test-required will help you guide your child’s preparation strategy. 
  • Encourage Preparation: Regardless of a college’s policy on standardized tests, encourage your child to prepare for these exams. Strong scores can bolster their application and provide additional evidence of their academic abilities.
  • Demonstrate Academic Rigor with AP or IB exams: Explore alternative assessment options, such as AP or IB exams, that align with your child’s strengths and interests. These assessments complement standardized test scores and showcase your child’s academic profile, particularly if the subjects are aligned with the student’s intended major.
  • Stay Informed: Keep abreast of updates and changes in college admissions policies, including new initiatives like Yale’s test-flexible policy. By staying informed, you can adapt your child’s application strategy accordingly.

Today, the landscape is more complex than before however, we are seeing a trend back to college entrance exams post-pandemic. 

With careful planning and guidance, parents can help their children present strong applications to their desired colleges and universities.

Note: SAT and AP are property of the College Board, ACT of the ACT and IB of International Baccalaureate. Any references in the article are for general educational purposes.

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