College Admissions

What is the Difference Between Test Blind and Test Optional?

By Tonya DuBois

During the COVID era, many colleges and universities have changed their testing requirements. In fact, two-thirds of all 4-year college and universities are test blind or test optional for the Class of 2021. Some have made these changes also for the Class of 2022 and some have made these changes permanently. For a complete list of schools and their testing requirements, please refer to:

Let’s start by defining some of these terms.

Test Optional: Colleges allow students the option of submitting SAT and/or ACT scores. If submitted, the admission committee will consider your scores. If not submitted, the applicant will not be penalized. There are over 1,500 colleges and universities that are currently test-optional (as of October, 2020).

Test Blind: Even if submitted, the admission committee will not consider scores in their admission decision process. There are over 60 colleges and universities currently test blind.

You may come across this term, so let’s define this too:

Test Flexible: Colleges allow students to submit test scores other than SATs or ACTs. For example, a student may submit 2 SAT II Subject Tests and an AP exam score, if they wish, in lieu of SAT or ACT scores.

All of this leads to a very important question – when should you submit scores and when should you hold them back? First, you should always use the test optional status to your own advantage – there is not a one size fits all answer.

If your test scores fall above the college’s middle 50% range for admitted students, then I recommend that you submit them. If your test scores fall below the college’s middle 50% range, then I suggest that you do not submit them. If your scores fall right in that 50% range, here are some things to consider:

How does your GPA, rigor of coursework, extracurricular involvement, and teacher recommendations stack up?

• If they are exceptional and your scores are average, then let the admission committee focus on the exception parts and don’t submit scores.

• If these items are below average, then let your average scores help you out and send them in.

• If all these factors are right inside the 50% range – GPA, rigor of coursework, extra-curricular involvement, SAT/ACT scores, etc. – then my suggestion it to go ahead and submit your scores. It simply can’t hurt and would eliminate any consideration that perhaps your test scores weren’t very good.

• If your test scores fall into the middle 50% and you are a first-generation college student and/or a recruited athlete, then I would especially encourage you to submit the scores.

Please note: even schools that indicate they are test optional or test blind do have exceptions. For example, if you are a recruited athlete, an international student, a home-school student, or if you are applying for merit scholarships, it’s important to further clarify the specific testing requirements for each school.

What about 9th, 10th, and 11th graders? I recommend that under-classmen prepare as if all your colleges will require testing. We aren’t sure what the future of college testing requirements will bring, and depending upon your list of schools, each requirement could look a little different. And, even if test optional, an excellent score will serve you well.

All applicants should keep in mind that with the test scores a non-factor as some schools, the rest of your application matters even more. It is more important than ever to write a quality essay that highlights something unique about your character, communicate your activities in an interesting and engaging way, and demonstrate your interest in the schools to which you are applying. If you need assistance with any of these items, please reach out to me at:

Below are some specific links that you may find helpful as you explore testing requirements at your college or university of choice. Please keep in mind that the most up-to-date information can be found on each institution’s individual website.

Test Optional Link: (when using this link, please refer to the key at the bottom of the page)

Test Blind Link: