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Is My Student Ready for College? The SAT or ACT May Hold the Answer

During the recent pandemic, the “test optional” choice for college admissions became popular very quickly. For a short time, it was not possible for the majority of students to take the standardized tests and the debate surrounding the importance of the ACT and SAT as a college-ready predictive tool was again in the news.

Even before the pandemic began, some colleges disliked the socioeconomic unfairness of the test, in particular opportunities to prepare for the test, and were putting less or no weight on test results for their admissions decision. The California State University System will not accept any standardized test scores for admission. The majority of colleges, however, have returned to accepting test scores, but the weight they carry varies quite a bit.

Colleges have found that recent high school grade inflation has made high school grades far less meaningful than ten years ago. The average college applicant has an A- or better on their high school transcript. To break through the confusion, many college admissions officers find standardized tests offer stronger predictive data about a student’s readiness to perform in college, than a highschool GPA.

Future employers are taking note as well. As the grade inflation trend in both high and college continues, employers may prefer to recruit at colleges that require standardized tests. A very expensive, “test optional” education may hold relatively less value, if employment opportunities are limited. Another trend we are seeing is employers requiring skills based assessments, i.e. standardized tests during the job application process.

The SAT and ACT assess reading, math, analyzing data and written communication. Reading is a fundamental skill for success in all high school and college subjects. The SAT and ACT evaluate how proficiently the student can read a question, comprehend the material and respond correctly. It is likely you employ just such skills each day at work and in your daily life.

The SAT and ACT evaluate mathematical principles your student has acquired starting in 7th grade, including algebra, geometry and trigonometry. This foundational knowledge is paramount as students tackle more advanced math concepts in high school, college and professionally.

Our world is increasingly data driven; reading graphs and tables and comprehending visual representations of data is a skill every college student must have. Just as effective written communication is necessary each day, from crafting an email to responding to texts, and a student who demonstrates such ability on the SAT and ACT is far more likely to perform better in classes that require reading and writing.

Taking tests, while difficult, may highlight gaps in foundational academic knowledge and skills which your student needs to be successful in college. Free test preparation is available online and any student with financial hardship can take the exams for free; further, there are many organizations that find tutoring resources for lower income students. As parents, we need to encourage our students to be resilient as they demonstrate their academic readiness for college. Data should not be scary - these standardized tests are simply that, a meaningful representation of your student’s college readiness. Do not run away from the test; it is a valuable tool for your student’s college application.


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