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Are test really needed for admissions? It depends on the test and the school. If you’re an international student talking about an English test, then yes for 99% of the time. If you’re a high school student looking at the SAT or ACT to get into a college not ranked in the top 75, then probably not.

Short answer:

So it really depends on what school you’re going to if you’re going to a school that has low admissions rates and are highly selective such as Stanford Harvard BYU then those schools may require a test but other schools even the school that has open enrollments may not require the test.

What a test score means to your application

Schools use a strong test score as a major part of an application if it’s included. A standardized test tells a school that you know how to study, how to take a test, and how to go the extra mile for your education. Believe it or not, but schools need test scores just as much as you need a scholarship. Why? Schools care about rankings and accreditation – both of which ask schools for their average test scores. So if you’re able to help a school have a higher average test score, they’re often willing to exchange that high score for admissions or even a scholarship.

What benefits are there from taking a standardized test?

Simple – admissions and scholarship consideration. Plus, having a higher score will make you admissible for a school that has a more competitive admissions process. One major benefit from having a high test score that is often overlooked is placement. I’ve personally seen employers screen candidates based on a test score; saying they only want to talk with students that scored over X on a test. So having a solid test score will open the door for admissions and scholarships, but also career placement.

Is there harm in taking the test?

Yes, but let me tell you how to negate that risk. So the risk is you stinking it up, getting a low score, and not being admissible to the school you want – again, because you would negatively impact their average score. So here are a few things you could do to negate that risk. First, study hard to help you hopefully not fall on your face during the first test. Second, plan on taking the test at least twice. This will allow you to use your first attempt as a way to give it a solid effort, but also get used to the stress of the test. Last, and this is huge, see your score before sending it to a school. You have the option of selecting schools that will automatically receive your test score after the test. If you select no schools, even if you stink it up and get a low score, that will give you the option of keeping that score in your back pocket as you study for a second attempt. Sometimes, there’s a small cost to send your official score to a school, so if you take the test and get a great score, tell the school and they could then purchase your score on their end for a few bucks, saving you money. No, this does not make you look bad to admissions.

What do schools look for, if they don’t require a test?

If you apply for admissions without a test, know what the school requires to figure out if you can get admitted or a scholarship without one. So, first do your research to know if you even stand a chance of getting admitted without a score. A school cares about every student, and asks themselves, “can this student pass our classes?” Having a solid test score helps them answer, “yes.” So without a test score, you need something else that can give them faith in your ability to pass classes. This usually means good grades. A school also cares about how desirable you are as a part of their program. The school wanting you could be in your resume, your volunteer experience, your personality, your network, etc. I highly recommend connecting with a recruiter or admissions officer to get an idea of your chances of being admitted, and what they’re looking for so that you could adjust your application to match expectations.

How to prepare for a test?

If you’re going to take the test, do it right. View test prep as an investment in yourself to open as many doors for admissions and scholarships as possible. A prep course will takes about 8 weeks to complete. Before diving into one though, we highly recommend contacting the school you’re trying to get into and learning which sections of the test they care about – it would be a shame to work hard on a section of the test just to have the school not even look at it… which happens. Here are some of the best test prep providers: Test Perfect Kaplan Magoosh

Action items

  1. Evaluate to see if you need a test for admissions or scholarships
  2. If you do, do a prep course which will take ~8 weeks
  3. Take the test at least twice. First time to get the nerves out, and the second time to get a higher score.
  4. Talk with admissions or a recruiter about your score to get on their radar
Was this article written by AI? No. How do I know this insight – I’ve been in admissions, marketing, and recruitment for over 12 years and have advised hundreds of students. Hopefully, this is helpful! Comment on our socials if you have any questions about this.


  • Jason Hall

    Jason Hall is the President and Co-founder of Study Plans, and is an expert in higher education and EdTech. He held executive roles for major International Pathway providers as well as university roles in enrollment management, recruiting, marketing, and admissions. His experience includes Oregon State University, Utah Valley University, and Brigham Young University. Jason holds an MBA from Portland State University.

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