Nearly 2,000 colleges and universities have publicly announced that they will not require the SAT or ACT for admission in fall 2022.
That's more than 75% of the degree-granting institutions in the U.S.
But it doesn't mean those tests are less important for high school students looking to make the leap to college.
"Test optional does not mean test prohibitive," said Rob Franek, the editor-in-chief of the Princeton Review, which surveys the top colleges across the U.S. annually. "What many of those schools are saying is that the SAT or ACT are of great value if you decide to take them, and if you exercise your right to submit them or not submit them."
Franek's team at the Princeton Review helps millions of students with their college decision each year. He said the pandemic accelerated a move away from standardized testing in higher education. At the start of 2020, about 400 schools had announced test-optional or test-blind policies.
Many schools believed the tests are fundamentally flawed.
"We call them bad tests because they're only testing you on what you're tested on for the SAT and ACT," Franek said, "and how you perform in that timed environment. From a test prep and teacher perspective, those are easy things to teach students: How to do well and not be nervous in a timed environment."
Franek said the pandemic raised new questions about equity and access to the SAT and ACT. By the end of 2021, the number of schools that announced plans to go test-optional had grown by 400%.
"In the spring of 2020, through much that calendar year, students simply could not sit for the SAT or the ACT with any real certainty," Franek said. "Then they could take it from August until December, monthly, and many students signed up for it. But many students got their registrations rescinded, sometimes a week, sometimes even three days before the exam."
"It is a direct result of COVID," Franek said, "that test-optional has become so popular."
There is an important distinction between test-optional and test-blind. Test-blind schools will not consider standardized test scores at all. Test-optional schools will consider the scores.
"They would still consider your SAT and ACT scores if you submitted them," Franek said. "But those schools cannot penalize a student if they don't submit their SAT or ACT scores."
He recommends that students take the test and submit any scores that paint them in a favorable light.
"The truth is that if you don't take it," Franek said, "then you will be limited to x number of schools, and you'll have one less criteria for those schools that are test-optional but still considering your SAT and ACT scores. That's just a fact."