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What are the standardized tests?

These are exams regulated by third party organizations, mostly non-profits, in quantitative (Mathematics) and language (English) reasoning skills. These tests loosely function as entrance exams to universities in the US, Canada, and some European universities. The most popular of such tests is the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) organized by the College Board; and American College Testing (ACT), an ACT inc. product. The difference between the ACT and SAT is that while the SAT focuses only on English grammar and usage, reading, and Mathematical reasoning skills, ACT assesses Scientific reasoning skills, as well. 

Other required tests are the language proficiency tests like the Test for English as a foreign language (TOEFL) and the International English language testing system (IELTS). However, for this piece, I will focus on the SAT and ACT.


The topic is especially apt and timely if you are a junior (Form 3/ 4 or a year 12/13) planning on applying to schools in the USA this year, 2021. Why? Well, standardized tests as a requirement in the admission process have been, at best, dropped to optional since last year, 2020. In other words, most universities (including the ivy league schools) have changed their policy on the submission of these test scores to optional or not required.


What does “test-optional” mean?

Test optional colleges will let you decide whether or not you submit your test scores. If you choose to submit, the schools will take your scores into consideration yet still they will strongly consider other parts of the application. Some will allow you to submit test scores, or a different test in their place such as  AP tests(test flexible). Others will not consider any test score, even if you include them in the application(test blind).


Should I Still Take the SAT/ ACT?

There are several reasons, most of which are based on how the schools and other applicants reacted to this new development. 

  1. It will make you competitive: In 2019, the number of SAT test-takers who took the exams, at least once, was about 1.8 million. In 2020, when most exam centers were closed because of the pandemic, the number of one-time test-takers increased to 2.2 million. The increase is because most applicants interpret it as an advantage to present a score now that it is optional.
  2. Test your language proficiency: Several schools use your sectional scores in the SAT to decide on their ability to handle the course rigor in your selected program. For example, your SAT verbal section score gives the admission officer (AO) an idea of how strong you are in the English language if you are an international student.  Your score on the Mathematics section confirms your strength in the subject, as a STEM student, if the AO is not familiar with your high school’s rigor in the subject or is unfamiliar with the education system.
  3. Financial aid requirement:  Although most merit-based scholarships for international students are linked to an applicants’ GPA and Test score, these scholarship packages are expected to change such requirements this year. However, in high schools without an adequate GPA system, the SAT score will remain a standardized way of making a fair decision on who gets these limited funds.

If you want the best SAT prep program with a track record of success then sign up to the AFEX SAT prep program

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