Test-Optional Trend Grows Among Top Colleges

standarized test gradient

We surveyed more than 800 students regarding standardized testing and yielded the following insights:

Niche users reporting SAT/ACT as their biggest college application concern21%
Niche users very satisfied with their SAT/ACT scores22%
Niche users that believe neither the SAT nor ACT measure how smart people are82%
Niche users that believe the SAT/ACT is the most important factor of whether you get into a good school or not15%

As seen above, when it comes to college application concerns, 21 percent of Niche users report SAT/ACT scores as their biggest worry. However, at test-optional schools, it’s possible to start college without ever taking a standardized test.

Test-Optional Colleges: "22 percent of Niche users are very satisfied with their SAT/ACT scores."

The SAT and ACT were created to help determine whether students were ready for the workload and academics of college. Yet, only 22 percent of Niche users report being very satisfied with their SAT/ACT scores. More and more traditional colleges—and even some universities—are becoming test-flexible or test-optional, meaning applicants don’t have to submit their SAT/ACT scores or even have to take the SAT or ACT.

Test-Optional vs. Test-Flexible

Schools that DON’T require any test scores in the admissions process
Schools that allow students to choose to submit other scores like AP and International Baccalaureate exams (as substitution for SAT/ACT) 

Reputation of Test-Optional Colleges

While no Ivy League institutions are yet test-optional, students can still get a quality education by going to a top-tier test-optional school. Some prestigious institutions that don’t require submission of SAT/ACT scores include: A Grade Badge    Brandeis University A Grade Badge   New York University A Grade Badge   Wake Forest University In fact, just because these schools are test-optional, doesn’t mean that they attract less-than-stellar students.

Test-Optional Colleges: "More and more high-profile universities are going test-optional."

Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, comes in at No. 27 on Niche’s list of schools with the Highest-Ranked High School Students. Other test-optional schools that show up in the top 100 include Middlebury College (No. 38), Wake Forest University (No. 55), Brandeis University (No. 59), Hamilton College (No. 60), and New York University (No. 67). So being a test-optional school doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a school that lacking in academic reputation and quality, especially given that more and more high-profile universities are going this route.

For those students that tear their hair out over standardized tests, test-optional schools may be a good option, especially when 82 percent of Niche users believe neither the SAT nor ACT measure how smart people are, and only 15 percent believe it’s the most important factor of whether you get into a good school or not.

Best Test-Optional Colleges

Niche Grade
ABard CollegeAnnandale-On-HudsonNY1936
ABates CollegeLewistonME1753
A+Bowdoin CollegeBrunswickME1831
ABrandeis UniversityWaltham MA3563
A-Connecticut CollegeNew LondonCT1884
A+Hamilton CollegeClintonNY1868
A+Middlebury CollegeMiddleburyVT2493
ANew York UniversityNew YorkNY21247
APitzer CollegeClaremontCA1041
ASmith CollegeNorthamptonMA2643
AWake Forest UniversityWinston SalemNC4746

Click here for a full list of test-optional colleges.

The Bottom Line

The University of Rochester offered this reasoning when they adopted the policy in 2012: “Many prospective students ‘test well’ on general standardized exams, and bring that ability to campus, while some are best at mastering specific material in subjects that interest them most, and bring that diligence and focus.” The crux of the test-optional movement is recognition that not every outstanding student is an outstanding test taker.