Home Assessment Testing-Optional College Admissions and UC California Ruling

Testing-Optional College Admissions and UC California Ruling


My daughter is in her senior year in high school this year and this “test optional” situation has certainly caused her, and my wife and I, some confusion. I'd been meaning to look into it further and this guest post from Matt Larriva helped me get my head around it, and prompted me to share it here. Personally, I think test optional is fine, but have to agree that simply not allowing schools to these tests at all (as California has done) is a step too far. That being said, another issue we are facing along these lines is the repeated cancellation this year of SAT testing here in Dutchess County, NY, making it increasingly difficult for my daughter to take the test at all. That is certainly unfair and I'd like to know what the College Board is doing to resolve this.
– KW

University of California Case Ruling

Recently, the University of California was ordered to stop using SAT and ACT test scores in admissions, and while the case involves students with disabilities, the judge’s ruling extends to all prospective students. While the UC system has been ordered to go test blind, ignoring test scores for admissions and scholarships completely, more schools are moving toward the testing-optional trend. What does the University of California ruling mean for the state of standardized testing for students in and outside the state?

In the case of the recent University of California case ruling, what we saw here was a legitimate complaint handled in an absurd manner. Because some students are unable to receive adequate access to test locations during COVID, the decision was made to outlaw the UC system from considering any applicant's test scores.

The court’s intent here is clearly to level the playing field, but it is a sledgehammer when a scalpel would do for test taking standards.

It should go without saying that protected groups deserve appropriate opportunities and accommodations in order to ensure equal access to educational opportunities. To achieve this by the abrupt prohibition of the review of tests because they may favor some groups over others opens a Pandora's box of issues.

A practical solution of requiring [that the College Board provide] suitable testing environments, as would be the case with other access constraints, would have resulted in one fewer measure of chaos in an already chaotic time. We do not have a perfect system, but in what other field does less information result in a better decision?

So, I Don’t Have to Take the ACT/SAT?

First of all, if possible, students should still be taking the ACT and SAT, even if the college admission process does not require test scores to be submitted. Schools that are test-optional don’t require students to submit their scores. They may submit their scores, but they will not be penalized in the review process if they don’t.

When considering the goals of your college application, remember that you are working to put your best foot forward and show your interest and talent in academic and extracurricular pursuits. For most cases, taking the ACT or SAT, even if your school does not require scores for the admissions process, shows that you are inline with this goal.

It also demonstrates that you are able to perform in stressful situations and have mastery over basic concepts expected of a college student. Most importantly, it proves to the admission board that you are willing to go above and beyond the minimum requirements for your commitment to education.

For a full review of the test-optional trend, check out Does ‘Testing-Optional Mean Optional for Me?

How Should I Prepare for the ACT/SAT?

While preparation for admission exams may seem expensive, there are several options, no matter your socioeconomic status. If you have limited time and resources, head to your local library and check out a test prep book. You can also find free online sources to help prepare. The SAT and ACT also offer waivers for low-income students to take the test for free. Furthermore, private tutoring and preparation groups can help boost test scores.

Many schools are making the transition to testing-optional, especially in the time of limited testing during the pandemic. Having an understanding of why submitting test scores can strengthen and benefit your application can greatly improve your chances of admission.


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Matt Larriva is the founder of Powerful Prep and is an expert in test-prep, test-taking, and the pre-college process. In addition to publishing three books on test prep, Matt runs Powerful Prep, a leading concierge tutoring firm, dedicated to transparency, massive point gains, and customized curriculum. Powerful Prep hires only Ivy League grads, offers industry-leading point gains, and has the highest reviews of any college program in Southern California. Matt was named an “elite super tutor” by the BBC, and his opinions have been featured in the LA Times and the Wall Street Journal. He works with students locally and globally who are seeking the best in test prep. Matt has passed two of Degree Library's 10 Hardest Exams in the World including the Mensa admissions exam, and the CFA exam--the test The Wall Street Journal called the world's hardest test. Matt completed his undergraduate degree at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and has a Masters in Applied Statistics from UCLA. He enjoys skydiving, and has played oboe at Carnegie Hall twice. Feel free to reach out with any questions about test prep or the pre-college process. Matthew loves to see students succeed regardless of whom they prep with.



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