Dear Estelle. We are getting ready to plunk down close to $1,000 so our son, soon to be a senior, can take a test prep course this summer. He detests standardized tests, having attended an alternative private school in Denver, which de-emphasizes them. Consequently, he has come to value other forms of learning and studying, i.e. writing papers and doing research projects rather than multiple-choice tests. He took the SAT in May, scored poorly and doesn’t feel like spending the summer prepping for it again. He would like to work and play a little, go to concerts and read a few good books. (He’s an avid reader). What advice do you have for us? Although not intransigent on the issue, he feels it’s a waste of his time and our money. GSW, Denver
Your question is loaded. Like everything else there are several sides to this answer. There appears to be a momentum going for SAT-optional admissions. Many colleges, especially liberal arts, are ending SAT requirements. According to Fair Test, an organization that keeps track of the utilization of standardized tests, there are now 24 testing-optional schools in the U.S. News list of the top 100 national liberal arts colleges. Schools that have made the change have benefited from it in terms of increased applications plus have noted that students without the scores have excelled equally to those who submitted them.
The dilemma! What to do if students wants to apply to a test-optional school like Bates but also apply to Wesleyan where tests aren’t optional? They will still have to take a test. One school, Lewis and Clark in Portland, Oregon, gives the students the option of submitting a portfolio in lieu of tests.
The College Board, in defense of the test, takes another stand. They believe the SAT acts as a national standard. A spokesperson for the College Board stresses that it is impossible to compare students from different high schools without a standard like the SAT. She cites grade inflation, stating, “An A is not an A in Every Place.”
To answer your question, your child has the “option” of taking the test and submitting it only to schools that require it or applying only to schools that don’t want it.
One parent felt that taking the test indicated to students it was time to “shape up.” Taking the test serves as an indicator to parents and children that it’s time to wake up to the fact that their time in high school is growing short, they must take responsibility, take time to prepare and ponder their future.
To personalize this question, your son has an advantage over many who do take the SAT/ACT. He loves to read and that promotes better SAT scores than almost anything.