Test Optional vs. Test Blind

We discuss the differences and how it affects your college admissions experience.

Test Optional vs. Test Blind


As the standardized testing landscape continues to shift, and dozens of colleges and universities have announced policy changes for the upcoming admissions cycle, parents and students are likely feeling some anxiety. Our team is here to help you understand the latest news regarding test-optional policies. For some background information about test optional review and what that means, check out our previous post. Here we will address the latest news and answer as many of your questions as we can.

Since our last post on this topic, many more schools have adopted test-optional policies for this upcoming admissions cycle. This includes all eight Ivy League schools as well as a number of large state flagship institutions, such as the University of Texas at Austin and Penn State. More state university systems, such as the Georgia state system (including both University of Georgia and Georgia Tech) are in talks right now, and we anticipate more announcements to be forthcoming. For an up-to-date list of test optional schools, check out our list here

I’ve heard some schools are “test blind.” What does that mean?

Indeed, a few colleges have opted to go test blind. Test blind is different from test optional. Under a test-optional policy, colleges still welcome test scores from students who choose to submit them and consider them a valuable data point and part of the review process if testing is available. At the same time, they are confident in reviewing a file without a test score and still rendering a fair decision—in other words, students without scores are not disadvantaged. 

In contrast, if a school is test blind, it means they will not consider standardized testing at all. Even if you have a 36 on the ACT, or a 1600 on the SAT, and you send it to them, they will not consider it as a part of your file.

Test-blind policies are far more rare than test optional. Notable schools with test-blind policies include Hampshire College (which was test blind prior to COVID-19), Caltech (which plans to implement a two-year pilot program), Catholic University, and Loyola University New Orleans. Yale University is also Subject Test blind for the 2020-21 admissions cycle.

Have SAT Subject Test policies changed, too?

Yes. Every school that previously required or recommended SAT Subject Tests has, at this point, amended their policy to either be Subject Test blind (MIT permanently, Yale for this year) or be clear that Subject Tests are now optional (Harvard, Dartmouth, Duke, etc.). Georgetown also specified that they will welcome AP scores in lieu of Subject Tests, which was a policy they began last year.

When will we know if every school is going to be test optional?

If only we had a crystal ball! Every admissions office that has not already made this change is talking about it. They all hope to have answers for students as soon as they can, but many schools are still waiting to see what happens this summer and following guidance and recommendations from the College Board and the ACT. We do expect more announcements to come throughout the summer but do not know exactly what that timeline will be.

How will this affect the Class of 2022 and beyond?

Most of the test-optional policies adopted by colleges and universities this year are intended to last only one year. However, a number of schools had already been considering making the jump to test optional, and some of those are launching longer pilot programs—for example, Tufts University will be launching a three-year pilot program and reevaluating after that, and the University of California system announced a five-year plan that includes test optional, then two years of test-blind admissions for residents, culminating in the creation of their own test. For the most part, we expect that we will not know about testing policies for the class of 2022 for quite some time (a year from now, or more) so we encourage most rising juniors to approach the testing process as they normally would.

Policies are changing quickly, but we are here to help and will keep you as informed as possible. If you have specific questions about how to navigate test-optional or test-blind admissions, our admissions coaches can help. Contact us to learn more today. And for more information, check out our recent webinar on all things test optional. 

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