February 2022 With the new SAT protocols being implemented this March throughout Indiana, I thought it prudent to reach out to Carmel High School (CHS) College & Career Programming and Resources Coordinator Melinda Stephan to find out the facts about the relevancy of the ACT/SAT when it comes to college and university applications in this current pandemic environment, as well as how the state’s changes to standardized testing as they relate to the SAT are going to impact Indiana high school juniors. Indiana high school juniors will take the SAT starting in the spring of 2022, and scores will be used to evaluate Hoosier schools' quality. Lawmakers made the change in 2018 as part of a bill to change Indiana's diploma structure to align with federal accountability and to align the high school exam with new graduation requirements approved by the state board. Test-Optional vs. Test-Flexible Policies Today, more colleges and universities across the nation are going test-optional or test-flexible, either temporarily or permanently, as a result of the pandemic. But even prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, some colleges and universities had already amended their admissions policies to put less emphasis on SAT or ACT scores and more emphasis on a holistic-review approach and multiple factors when reviewing student applications. This was a response by many colleges and universities to address concerns about equity and access barriers for students seeking higher education; however, many merit-based scholarships still require ACT or SAT scores for consideration. Stephan added, “Most of the colleges and universities that are test-optional are test-optional across the board, but you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’re worthy of a scholarship but you didn’t take the SAT or ACT, and now you’re not even being considered. So, it’s just better to take the test and make a decision afterwards as to whether or not you want to send in your score.” So, what is the difference between test-optional and test-flexible? Test-optional means the college or university does not require applicants to submit standardized test scores when applying for admission. Test-flexible means the college or university gives the students the option to submit other standardized test scores for consideration, such as an International Baccalaureate exam or an Advanced Placement Test, in lieu of an ACT/SAT score but are welcome to submit an ACT/SAT score if they so wish. Stephan emphasized that she and her colleagues at CHS looks at each individual student’s situation and help them decide on whether or not they should send in their ACT/SAT scores. “We’ve gotten a lot of questions in the last couple of years from parents and students,” Stephan said. “There is a list of test-optional colleges and universities in the United States, and it’s more than you realize. But there is still a handful of colleges and universities that still require test scores, and they’re usually more selective in nature. Most colleges and universities will post their middle 50%, and so we tell our students to look at that information on the college website, and if their middle 50% for the SAT was 1200, and the student has a 1050, you might not want to send your scores because you’re falling below that middle 50%. If your test scores fall within that 50%, then you’re in a good place to send in your scores.” New This March—All Indiana High School Juniors Are Required to Take the SAT The SAT is the new state accountability exam required by the State of Indiana, starting with the class of 2023. Any CHS class of 2022 seniors who have not already taken the SAT or ACT were not eligible to participate in the SAT testing day on March 2, 2022. These seniors will have to register and take the exams on a designated Saturday test day. High school juniors are not able to opt out of taking the SAT even if they have taken the test previously, have future plans to take it, or don’t intend to take it in the future. Students unable to take the SAT on March 2 due to an absence or illness will have to complete a make-up test at school, within the state’s designated testing windows. The students will not have to register themselves nor pay to take the SAT on this date. CHS will make all necessary arrangements for students to take the test. The SAT will be taken on a computer by all CHS juniors. This is a different testing format than students will use if/when they take the SAT during College Board-scheduled administrations, which are paper/pencil exams. While students are required to take the SAT for state accountability purposes, it is not a graduation-qualifying exam like the ISTEP was previously. In other words, a student does not need to achieve a certain score on the SAT in order to graduate from high school. The state does not require that the actual numerical score be reported on the transcript. Therefore, CHS does not plan to include actual test scores on the transcript. SAT Prep and Tutoring There are numerous test prep resources available to students, some of which are free. The best place to start is by using the official SAT prep offered by the College Board in partnership with Khan Academy. This free test prep resource provides access to practice test questions and full-length practice tests. The CHS Counseling Office also maintains a list of test prep resources in the Counseling Canvas Course. “There’s no shortage of people trying to help students prepare for these tests,” Stephan stated. “It’s definitely a huge market, but I usually tell students to get familiar with the testing formats, and so maybe do some online free test prep and get familiar with the way the questions are asked. Any time a student can set aside some time on a weekend to do a full-length practice test is only going to help with testing strategies, timing and how things are worded. A lot of it is just understanding how to take the test, and that’s why students have been doing better the second time they take it because they’re familiar with it.” Stephan explained that if a student wants to retake the SAT to improve their score, they can, but they will need to register and pay to take the test during a test date offered by the College Board. The same applies for students who want to take the ACT in addition to the required SAT. The student will need to register and pay for the ACT through the College Board. Scores from the March 2 SAT will be available in late March/early April, and make-up SAT scores will be available in May. More details about how to access scores will be shared by CHS counselors later this spring. If you have additional questions, please contact your CHS counselor. For a comprehensive list of test-optional colleges and universities throughout the U.S., visit fairtest.org.