The Pros & Cons of Taking the SAT or the ACT

College admission parameters are changing. In the past, standardized test scores were an important part of a student’s application. Today, many colleges are no longer requiring applicants to submit either SAT or ACT scores. In fact, has published a list of 27 colleges that do not require standardized test scores, and FairTest (The National Center for Fair and Open Testing) has reported that half of U.S. colleges will not require scores for either test in the fall of 2021. But does that mean that a student shouldn’t take these exams?

Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing for Students

1.) They are supposed to level the playing field. Not all schools, public or private, are created equally, and taking the SAT or ACT can indicate that a student from an underprivileged schooling situation has the same scholastic ability as other students. However, research has also indicated that one of the most important factors behind success on standardized test is socioeconomic status, which relates to money to pay for prep classes and tutoring. 

2.) They are good practice for the rest of life. At some point in life, most adults will have to take a standardized test, whether it’s for admission to graduate school, to pass a licensing examination for college, or to earn certification and credit for professional training. Outside of work, standardized tests are prevalent throughout society.  Even to get a driver’s license, you must first pass a standardized exam. The downside of taking the SAT or ACT to practice for life after high school, though, is that the tests can cause intense anxiety that can negatively impact scores, the same scores which many colleges still consider important to determining whether to admit an applicant. 

3.) They don’t predict overall college success. The SAT and ACT exams do not provide college admissions committees information about how well a student will do in college. In fact, these exams are really only positively correlated with students’ grades through their freshman year. On the other hand, “the ACT and College Board, which owns the SAT, argue that a combination of grades and test scores is the best overall guide to selecting students who are likely to succeed in college. Using grades without test scores could exacerbate inequities, test officials say, because grade inflation is worse in affluent schools,” notes Teresa Watanabe in a December 2019 Los Angeles Times article.

The Final Decision is Individual.

Knowing which college program a student wants to be admitted to is an important first step to determining whether or not to take the SAT or ACT. Talking with a guidance counselor in high school familiar with that program or talking to the college directly can also shed light on how applications are considered there. 

A student might wish to take the tests so that their applications have as much information as possible to support their admission to a college. If grades were less than desirable in high school, but the student does well on tests, for example, it could be a helpful move to sit the exams. On the other hand, if the tests aren’t required, a student may just wish to forgo taking the tests to avoid the need for preparing and any stress that would accompany it.

Making a list of individualized pros and cons can help a student make the right choice for them.

Excel High School Offers SAT and ACT Preparation Courses. 

Students at Excel High School are supported by strong academic curricula and expectations by their teachers. If they want to sit the ACT or SAT, we have top-notch preparation courses to help them get ready, something many high schools do not offer. 

While many colleges are now making these exams optional, it may still be best for many students to take the exams. Standardized test scores can help round out a college application and give admission committees the push they need to accept a student. The test-taking techniques and strategies taught in our online prep classes enable students to achieve higher test scores. To learn more, check out our SAT prep program or contact us today!

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