Harvard recently announced that it would not require ACT/SAT scores for admissions into its undergraduate courses. It added that students who do not submit a test score will not be ‘disadvantaged’ and that test scores were ‘just one’ of several factors considered. The announcement went on to elaborate that accomplishments inside and outside the classroom in your high school years- extra-curricular activities, community participation, employment, and family responsibilities- are considered an important part of your application.

What does test-blind really mean?

Schools that are test-blind will not consider your ACT/SAT scores even if you submit them. However, consider UCLA’s test-blind policy: even though UCLA states outright that it is test-blind and will not consider ACT/SAT scores, it adds a caveat. UCLA then goes on to add that “ACT/SAT might be used to place you in courses that match your level of preparation for college coursework if–and only if–you send your scores in anyway.  Look out for such caveats from test-blind schools and send in your scores anyway, just in case there is such a caveat.

What does ‘test-optional’ mean? 

Test-optional schools will consider your ACT/SAT scores if you submit them but they do not require ACT/SAT scores for admissions or scholarships. Test-optional schools apply equal weightage to ACT/SAT scores. This means that they will not give more importance to your scores and treat them as equal to other things that they consider while deciding whether to admit you or give you a scholarship.

 Why are schools going test-blind?

There have been plenty of lawsuits filed against testers and universities and some (in California) that even claim that standardized tests like the ACT and the SAT are ‘illegal’. The argument is that standardized tests only indicate which students are good at ‘taking tests’, they are not a good indicator of college preparedness and they are ‘racist’ and classist’ meaning that they favour students from certain races and the upper economic segments.

My argument is that education in its entirety works in the same way. School and college exams may indicate which students have assimilated knowledge and skills and which have not but they also favour students who are ‘better’ at taking exams. In addition, standardized tests like ACT and SAT do, to some extent, indicate the level of college preparedness because they measure reasoning skills that are critical in college. Finally, education is classist as the ‘better’ elementary schools and high schools are more expensive and out of reach for low-income families.

So, what to do if you plan to apply to a test-blind school?

Take the ACT or SAT or both anyway!  Most students have a list of safety schools they want to apply to and your scores could be useful if you need to apply to these schools. Moreover, test-blind schools, as mentioned above, may consider your scores for ‘other purposes’. Finally, if you have a test-optional school in your shortlist, your scores could be considered.