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The Return of Standardized Testing: SAT and ACT in College Admissions

Williams Educational is aware that the landscape of college admissions is evolving every day, and with change comes anxiety, especially when change includes standardized testing requirements.

The SAT and ACT, once optional at many institutions due to the pandemic, are regaining importance. Stanford is the latest institution to reinstate testing.

Here’s what you need to know about these exams and how they impact the college admissions process.

Why the Comeback?

Many colleges and universities adopted test-optional policies to accommodate students facing unprecedented challenges. However, as in-person learning and testing resume, these institutions are reassessing their admissions criteria. The return to requiring SAT and ACT scores is driven by several factors:

  1. Consistency and Comparability: Standardized tests provide a consistent metric to compare students from diverse educational backgrounds.

  2. Predictive Validity: Research shows that SAT and ACT scores can be reliable indicators of college success.

  3. Scholarship Opportunities: Many merit-based scholarships still consider standardized test scores, making t hem crucial for students seeking financial aid.

The SAT: What’s New?

The SAT has undergone several changes aimed at making the test more accessible and reflective of high school curricula. Key updates include:

  • Digital Testing: Starting in 2024, the SAT will be administered digitally, making it more flexible and secure.

  • Shorter Duration: The digital SAT will be shorter, with a duration of about two hours, compared to the traditional three.

  • Adaptive Testing: The new format will be adaptive, meaning the difficulty of questions will adjust based on the test-taker’s performance.

The ACT: Updates and Strategies

The ACT continues to be a staple in college admissions, with some recent enhancements:

  • Section Retesting: Students can now retake individual sections of the ACT rather than the entire test, allowing them to improve specific scores.

  • Superscoring: Many colleges accept superscores, which combine the best scores from each section across multiple test dates.

  • Online Testing: The ACT has also introduced online testing options, providing greater flexibility for students.

Preparing for the Tests

With standardized testing back in play, preparation is key. Here are some tips to help students succeed:

  1. Start Early: Begin studying well in advance to avoid last-minute cramming.

  2. Practice Regularly: Utilize practice tests to familiarize yourself with the format and types of questions.

  3. Focus on Weak Areas: Identify and target areas that need improvement.

  4. Consider Prep Courses: Enroll in SAT/ACT prep courses or work with a tutor for structured guidance.

Balancing the Application Portfolio

While SAT and ACT scores are important, they are just one piece of the admissions puzzle. Colleges also consider:

  • GPA and Course Rigor: Strong academic performance and challenging coursework.

  • Extracurricular Activities: Involvement in clubs, sports, or community service.

  • Essays and Recommendations: Personal statements and letters of recommendation that highlight your character and achievements.


The return of the SAT and ACT signifies a shift back to traditional metrics in college admissions. Staying informed and prepared can help students navigate this transition successfully. As always, it’s important to build a well-rounded application that showcases not just test scores, but a holistic view of a student’s capabilities and accomplishments.

2025 Admissions season is upon us, and students and parents should be researching which schools are requriing testing for admissions by connecting with Admissions Officers, researching websites and visiting the FairTest for great information..

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