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There are many different opinions out there about the importance of standardized test scores. Our experienced tutors have advice for parents and students who are wondering how test scores will affect their applications. Here are some top questions we often hear:

  1. What is the role of test scores in the candidate’s application packet? How do higher or lower test scores impact a candidate’s application?

Strong test scores are an important way for candidates to strengthen their applications. Although test scores by themselves do not necessarily preclude or guarantee admission, I always remind my students that their SAT/ACT scores are indeed a large factor, though not the only one, that colleges use to help gauge the applicant’s readiness for college-level work. Applicants should put their best foot forward by ensuring that all components of their applications—including test scores—are as strong as possible. For most applicants, this means that they should work to be in at least the middle range (25th-75th percentiles) of ACT/SAT scores for admitted students in order to be competitive in the admissions process. Through good preparation—including mock tests, focused work on requisite skills and techniques, and one-on-one tutoring—students can achieve scores that will bring them one step closer to receiving an offer of admission.

– Leanne Dodge, SAT and ACT Expert, Yale PhD

  1. How can higher test scores help a student to get off the waitlist?

If the standardized test score you used on your application isn’t up to the level of your GPA, then retaking the test and attaining a higher score (even on just part of the test for schools that superscore) could assist your getting accepted off the waitlist. This, in addition to strong grades for your most recent quarter, are two of the biggest differences you can make to impact your waitlist status. Getting help for both your grades and test scores would be a good idea: see your teacher after school, buddy up with a friend who is getting an A in the course, or find a tutor to help you out. Also, remember to be in communication with the college where you want to get off the waitlist, and, if possible, visit the campus.

Jonathan Arak, 31-Year Test Prep Veteran

  1. How do higher test scores contribute to a student’s profile in athletic recruiting?

Higher test scores can be especially important for prospective college athletes. If you think you might be recruited to play intercollegiate athletics, consider starting your test preparation for the SAT or ACT early in your junior year or even during the summer before sophomore year. Each spring, coaches try to put together a preliminary recruiting list of current juniors they are targeting for their teams. Although they consider many factors, including GPA, position played, and skill level, coaches are expected to provide their colleges’ admissions committees with a list of recruits who meet a minimum average threshold for average SAT or ACT scores. Many coaches will not add prospective recruits to their preliminary lists without an official test score that’s close to the number they need, so athletes should aim to hit near that target by mid-spring of junior year. If an athlete can score above a coach’s target number, those extra points can be a substantial advantage in admissions–higher scores allow the coach to recruit another player with scores below the target. So if you want to play a sport in college, start early and aim high.

Brendan Mernin, SAT/ACT and Admissions Expert

  1. How can test scores affect a student’s financial aid package?

Many students and parents are aware that the PSAT doubles as a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP). Every year, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) selects 7,500 Merit Scholarship finalists from a pool of the highest-scoring PSAT students. Each finalist is awarded $2,500 from the NMSC toward his or her college tuition. Some of these finalists also receive either corporate-sponsored or college-sponsored awards through the program.

In addition to obtaining scholarship money through the NMSP, students can maximize their financial aid packages by achieving high scores on other standardized tests, including the SAT and ACT, as well as some AP exams. Most undergraduate institutions offer both need-based and merit-based financial aid packages. High standardized test scores can not only increase a student’s need-based financial aid package, but also help that student qualify for merit-based grants through the school itself or state-sponsored programs.

Kate Fisher, SAT/ACT and AP Expert

What questions do YOU have about the role of test scores? Let us know in the comments!

Impact of Test Scores on College Applications and Financial Aid