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5 Things Juniors Need to Know About Standardized Tests This Year

I know you're worried. SAT and ACT tests around the country are continuing to be canceled. You are concerned about how this will impact your college admissions process a year from now.

One thing we have learned in the past ten months, though, is that the standardized testing industry and the role it plays in the process has changed forever.

Colleges are adapting, and so are we. Here is what you need to know about standardized tests for the coming year:

1. The SAT and ACT can wait.

You have time on your side. Most students do not take the SAT or ACT until the spring of their junior year—even during a normal year. If test sites continue to remain closed through the spring of 2021, I would anticipate many colleges extending their test optional policies. And, if they don't, I have a strong suspicion that by next summer and early fall, testing sites will open up in earnest with multiple dates each month to take a test. 

2. Test optional colleges are very common these days.

Even before the pandemic hit, there were over a thousand test optional colleges in the U.S. Students are not required to submit test scores under a test optional policy. There is great variety among this test optional group from small to large colleges, and plenty of highly selective colleges as well. For a full list of test optional colleges, visit
RELATED READING: Test Optional...With a Catch 

3. The PSAT will be offered twice this school year.

Most students take the PSAT in October of junior year. However, not all high schools were open this fall. The PSAT will be offered once again in January. While the PSAT is not used for college admissions, a high index score can qualify a student for the National Merit Scholarship. If you are not able to take the PSAT, the National Merit Scholarship Program is offering an alternate option.

4. Subject Tests need to take a backseat.

Over the last year, many colleges backed off their requirements or recommendations for Subject Tests. In fact, a number of colleges, like MIT and Yale, are no longer considering them. Given how difficult it is to get an SAT or ACT under your belt, do not worry about Subject Tests. The only college that seems unwilling to compromise on these tests is Georgetown University. All other colleges realize they are no longer the priority, nor are they necessary.

5. Believe it or not, AP exams may be your only sure bet this school year.

If the SAT and ACT continue to be unavailable in certain parts of the country and world, AP exams may be the only standardized tests available. While the delivery of online AP exams last May was nothing short of a debacle, the College Board is surely working on improving them for May of 2021. If you have a choice, consider taking the AP exams that match up with your academic interests, majors, and ability. I would rather see you take fewer AP exams with higher scores than many AP exams with lower scores.

Read more: The One Piece of Your Application You Didn't Know Mattered So Much

For those students who rely on standardized tests to strengthen their applications, I believe you will have a chance to take them. But you may have to wait longer than you thought. The good news is that colleges permit senior year fall testing, and students often score their best during senior year. And for those students who worry about their scores actually hurting them, standardized tests no longer carry the weight they once did. These tests can help those who need them, but they can just as easily be a tiny blip on the radar for those who are more disillusioned by them.