How important are standardized test scores compared to other pieces of the application?

ACT/SAT Prep

Our counselors answered:

How important are standardized test scores compared to other pieces of the application?

Lora Lewis
Educational Consultant Lora Lewis Consulting

How important are standardized test scores compared to other pieces of the application?

Standardized test scores are important because they provide colleges with a common standard by which to evaluate your achievement. There is no consistency in the ways teachers grade, so a B at one school might be an A at another; on the SAT or ACT, however, there's no possibility of inconsistent assessment. Standardized test scores are valuable tools for college admissions officers to use when evaluating applications, but they are only one piece of a larger picture of student achievement. Depending on where you apply, elements like the essay, teacher recommendations, extracurricular accomplishments, and creative portfolio will factor into the decision. High school grades remain the number one most important factor in college admissions. Strive to do well on the SAT or ACT, but even the best scores can't replace top grades earned in very rigorous classes.

Rebecca Joseph
Executive Director & Founder getmetocollege.org

How important are standardized test scores compared to other pieces of the application?

In a world where all things are not equal, standardized test scores are the one way many colleges elect to compare students across the country and the world. Sadly these tests do not always reveal how well a student will do in college. But they are here, and we need to realize that they are one of the top factors many colleges use while evaluating students. So students need to find schools that match their scores, and even find ones that do not require them if testing is not their strength. Please realize that your test scores can improve if you are willing and able to get assistance and study. Believe it or not, reading is also one way all students can improve their scores. We need to find ways to get all students access to test prep, however, to truly level the playing field.

Zahir Robb
College Counselor The Right Fit College

How important are standardized test scores compared to other pieces of the application?

This varies from school to school, but the College Board does a good job of collecting this information. Check under the "Applying" tab after you have found a school for more information. In general it is still a highly regarding part of the application process, and along with course selection and grades, will play a large role in admissions for most schools.

Pam Ohriner

How important are standardized test scores compared to other pieces of the application?

Standardized test scores are an integral part of the college application and along with grades, extracurricular activities, and recommendation letters determine whether you will be a "yes', "no", or "maybe" in the admission process. High schools frequently have different standards for grading, so standardized tests are a way of measuring all applicants against each other using the same test. With that in mind, it is important to start early and adequately familiarize yourself with the various tests. It is extremely helpful to prep for the exam in a way that is within your budget, whether by classes, private tutoring, or self tutoring using a book or online assistance.

Beth Shak
Owner CollegeFit LLC

How important are standardized test scores compared to other pieces of the application?

Standardized test scores count less than you think but more than most admissions officers will admit. Your GPA and the rigor of your high school curriculum are the most important parts of your college application. Standardized test scores can also be very important, but are often not quite as important. You can look at Section C of each college's Common Data Set to see how important standardized test scores are in the admissions process for that particular college. Standardized test scores (as well as other factors) are each assigned a measure of relative importance: either very important, important, considered, or not considered. At test-optional schools, standardized test scores are generally less important. For example, according to its Common Data Set, test-optional Bates College indicates that standardized test scores are "considered." On the other hand, Stanford University (not test-optional) reports in its Common Data Set that standardized test scores are "very important." Because standardized test scores of enrolled freshmen are one factor used in determining US News and World Reports college rankings, accepting (and enrolling) students with higher test scores will have a positive effect on a college's rank. Take your standardized tests seriously and do the best you can. At a minimum, you can take (free) practice tests online to help you prepare.