Standardized Test Guidance from Ms. Merle


Grace Haag, Editor

Taking standardized tests is stressful in a normal year, now with COVID-19, the task is made even more complicated. I interviewed Ms.Merle, a Morris Knolls school counselor, asking her for some pointers regarding standardized testing, and she kindly took the time to respond to my questions. 


Question: Should students take the SAT, ACT, or both?

Ms.Merle’s Answer: Students can take both the SAT and/or ACT. Many will try taking one of each to see if they prefer one over the other. DO NOT take both twice; it is not needed. Both are accepted at all colleges and there is no preference for one test over the other.


Question: When should students start taking the SAT/ACT? How many times should a student take these tests?

Ms.Merle’s Answer: We recommend students take the SAT/ACT twice. The first time you test you tend to be nervous while the second time allows you to improve. The standard is to never take a test more than three times. We usually recommend that students start taking the exams in the winter or spring of their junior year. All juniors take the PSAT in October. Thus, there is no real expectation to start the SAT before the December test date or the February ACT test date. The idea is to get as much education (math especially) under your belt before you take the tests.


Question: How are colleges viewing SAT/ACT scores in view of COVID-19? I know that many schools have gone test-optional, if you take the SAT and are not happy with your score should you still send it to a test-optional school? 

Ms.Merle’s Answer: Many schools became test-optional prior to Covid. Some require a graded essay, but not all. Due to Covid, many colleges did not hold students accountable for providing test scores during this past admissions cycle. Honestly, no one really knows what the future holds moving forward. Some schools may now opt to not require testing moving forward. We believe the more competitive schools will still require testing and for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle we are encouraging our students to try to take at least one test in case their schools do require it. It is a personal choice whether to send your scores to a test-optional school. If your scores are above the 50% range of average acceptances it would seem to be a positive addition to your application. However, every application and acceptance requirement within each major can vary.


If you have any questions regarding what may be best for you regarding taking standardized tests and college applications, make sure to reach out to your guidance counselor to see what the right decision is for you.