Confused about test-optional admission policies?

There isn’t just one “test-optional” admission policy. Colleges who employ these type of policies have their own twist on it. Read this article for information on what kinds of test-optional policies are out there, and just what they mean. It was originally posted on, which is no longer online.

Clarifying the test optional college admissions plans

August 21, 2015

Just when you thought it couldn’t get more complex, with the redesign of the SAT and ACT’s planned changes to their test, colleges add their twist with new testing policies in admission.

There used to be two options. Colleges required either the SAT or ACT, or, they didn’t require the tests. When the movement began for universities to opt-out of having their applicants submit test scores, the category of “test-optional” colleges was born. However, as with all things in the world of college admission, it could never remain as simple as a school either required the standardized testsor not. Welcome to the varied word of test-optional admission policies!

No longer can a student be assured that when they read in a brief description that a university is test-optional that it means they don’t have to submit their test scores. Students should do their due diligence and dig a bit deeper because some colleges have added variations to the formerly straight forward policy.

If a school lists itself just as “test optional” then they mean students can choose to opt out of submitting their standardized test scores for admission consideration. They will use the other credentials you submit in your application. Some of the schools who are test-optional includeAmerican UniversityBeloit CollegeLynn UniversityPitzer College, and closer to home, Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR.

A newer alternative that colleges have started to use is “test-flexible” which means that you can submit something else in place of the SAT or ACT scores. Each school that employs this policy sets their own criteria, such as requiring SAT Subject tests, AP or IB scores, additional writing samples or portfolio pieces. For the student who is test-phobic, submitting other test scores seems hardly to make the situation better. However for those students who have performed well on other exams but not necessarily the SAT or ACT, this policy allows them to use those stronger scores to their advantage. Colleges that offer test-flexible policies include Colby CollegeColorado College,Hamilton College and New York University.

The category “test-conditional” means that standardized tests are only required of some students who do not meet certain criteria. This could include GPA or class rank cut-offs, or residency status. Examples here are Arizona State UniversityEastern and Central Washington Universities, fifteen of the California State University campuses, Eastern Oregon University and Montana State’s Billings,Bozeman and Northern campuses. University of KansasKansas State UniversityWichita Stateand several Ohio State campuses require test scores from out of state applicants.

A “test-blind” school does not ever ask for standardized tests as part of admissions. They will not look at scores submitted. So far Hampshire College is the only school that currently uses this policy, however more schools could adopt this policy as standardized testing continues to evolve.

The National Center for Open and Fair Testing keeps an updated listing of colleges who list themselves in one of the test-optional categories. Knowing which testing policy a college adheres to is just another piece added to the admission world puzzle!

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