Should Having Anxiety About Standardized Tests Prevent College Admission?

The ACT and SAT are standardized tests used for college admission requirements. These tests measure a student’s understanding in certain skill areas such as problem solving and critical thinking, and how they have developed during a student’s high school years. Colleges use the ACT and SAT to gauge how well a student is prepared for college-level academics, although not all colleges require these standardized tests as an admission requirement. This can be very freeing to someone who deals with test anxiety. It is very normal to have some anxiety before taking such an important test, however to some it can be more than a “little anxiety”. Find out how many colleges are making standardize tests optional and learn helpful strategies to reduce test anxiety.

Not All Colleges Require Standardized Tests

 Should having anxiety about standardized tests prevent college admission? Test anxiety is real and can be problematic for those wanting to apply to college. In the past most if not all colleges required standardized tests, ACT or SAT, for admission. However now many colleges are making standardized test an optional requirement for admission.

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing is an organization that “advances quality education and equal opportunity by promoting fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial evaluations of students, teachers and schools.”  They have been successful in their mission, according to their latest report over 1,000 accredit higher education institutions allow the ACT and SAT to be an optional admission requirement. As a result colleges have been attracting applicants who are more academically capable as well as diverse. According to FairTest, previously the emphasis on standardized testing “deterred minority, low-income, first generation, and female students from applying”. 

If your student is thinking about not taking the ACT or SAT it is very important that your child check with the colleges in which they plan to apply and review their admission requirements regarding standardized testing. Even though many colleges have made this requirement optional, it varies from school to school. Most schools fall into one of three categories … no test, test optional, and test flexible. Here are a few examples.

No Test

One university in particular has a no test policy for in state residents only. Anyone not a resident of the state in which the university is located is required to go through a comprehensive admission process. This process includes ACT and/or SAT scores.

Test Optional

A test optional school allows the student the option to apply with or without ACT and SAT scores. Your child will indicate on the application that they would like to apply test optional. If they choose test optional, most colleges will look at your student’s GPA, courses taken in high school, class rank, recommendations from teachers, and may require an interview.

Test Flexible

Another university that is test flexible doesn’t require the ACT or SAT however, does require SAT subject tests or AP Exams. Basically a test flexible school may not require the ACT or SAT but will require something else in place of it.

Again, it is very important to check with the colleges your child plans to apply and review their admission requirements regarding standardized testing. Either way whether your child chooses to take the ACT or SAT or not, at All*Star Financial Aid, we always recommend you and your student review the required scores for admission and scholarships at each college.

Standardized Testing Pros and Cons

The biggest advantage in not taking the ACT or the SAT is not having the anxiety that accompanies test taking. Test anxiety is real and can be problematic. A student who is academically capable and well-rounded could do poorly on a standardized test and it could affect their chance of being accepted to a college of their choice. Another advantage reported by FairTest is that more students are able to attend college who wouldn’t have attended before.

A disadvantage that you and your child will want to consider is what will be lost in scholarship money. Some of the top scholarships at a college require a GPA and standardized test scores. This doesn’t mean your child won’t receive some scholarship funds from the institution they plan to attend but they won’t qualify for the higher tier scholarships. This could be a difference in $3.000.00- $9,000.00. If your student meets the GPA requirement, it is something to keep in mind before writing off standardized testing.

Related Post: The Best Guide To: Finding Scholarships

What to do if your child has anxiety about standardized tests?

 When is comes to standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT, test anxiety can become a big issue. A lot of pressure can be placed on oneself when trying to get the scores needed to qualify for college admission. However many colleges are making the standardized test requirement optional. If your student still plans to take the ACT or SAT be sure to use strategies to help reduce any test anxiety they may have.

Test anxiety is not fun. This type of anxiety results in excessive worry about the test a student is about to take. It prevents the student from concentrating and memory lapses can occur during the test. If your child has test anxiety, can you imagine the pressure they might put on themselves when thinking about an exam that is required for college admission. The college admissions and financial aid process is stressful enough.

When thinking of strategies to reduce test anxiety, I first think of the wonderful 90’s show “Boy Meets World.” In season 2, episode 23, Mr. Feeny convinces Eric to help him in the garden. In return for Eric’s help, Mr. Feeny will tell Eric the three secrets for doing well on the SAT.  Without realizing it, Eric is practicing the three secrets the entire time he is helping Mr. Feeny in his garden. These three secrets are:

  1. Get a good night sleep
  2. Clear your head
  3. Trust yourself

The Mayo Clinic also has some good test taking strategies to relieve test anxiety. A few of them are “study early and in similar places, establish a consistent pretest routine, and learn relaxation techniques”.  Test Taking has a great downloadable list of tips to reduce test anxiety.

It is nice to see that some colleges are making standardized testing an optional admission requirement. Here is what we recommend as your next steps.

Related Post: 5 Things to Consider When Searching for Colleges

On FairTest Optional List

  •  Look at the college website to see admission requirements
  •  Review the college financial aid page to see what scholarship requirements there are.
  •  Weigh the pros and cons to determine whether to take the standardized test or not, if there is a standardized test requirement for scholarships,

Not on FairTest Optional List

  •  Review all colleges to see what standardize test score is needed to be admitted as well as required to qualify for any scholarships. Having an idea as to what score is needed will help your child to study.

What are your thoughts on standardized testing? Do you think testing should be a factor in the college selection process? Do you have any test taking tips to relieve test anxiety? Please share in the comments below.

 Get the exact 5 steps we use when assisting our clients through the college admissions and financial aid process.  The College Bound Checklist  takes you step-by-step through the entire process. This list is also full of great resources. All Star Financial Aid College Bound Checklist. It's Free! 

Get the exact 5 steps we use when assisting our clients through the college admissions and financial aid process. The College Bound Checklist takes you step-by-step through the entire process. This list is also full of great resources. All Star Financial Aid College Bound Checklist. It's Free!