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Colleges Announce SAT is Test Optional – Is it Really Optional?

March, May and June SAT tests, and the April ACT exam—cancelled. The June ACT exam cancelled in some test locations. Colleges and universities going test-optional. Students and parents alike are frustrated and uncertain.

You may think it’s best to wait things out and see how it goes. And while sitting tight is tempting—keeping with the (new) status quo is almost always easier—it keeps us from moving forward and accelerating what we can do in the future.

The next opportunity to take the SAT is August 29. Summer programs are enrolling as we speak, including Huntington Learning Center, an MSA-accredited school that offers individualized, one-on-one instruction by certified teachers for SAT and ACT prep in the Newark, Delaware(,) center.

Here’s why your high-school-age child should spend at least part of their summer preparing for college entrance exams.

Not much is changing for the vast majority of colleges and universities.

Colleges that were competitive to get into pre-Covid are going to remain so. No matter how everything shakes out, the best schools are still going to have far more applicants than open positions, explains Jim Power, executive director at Huntington Learning Center.

“Even for test-optional schools, having good SAT or ACT scores will provide additional standardized data for colleges to make decisions on admitting students, acceptance into honors programs and whether scholarship money should be offered,” he says. “Some students will increase their exam scores to better position themselves for these opportunities, and some will just wait and see. But when a declination letter arrives, it will be too late to improve your academic profile.”

A strong SAT or ACT score is a great insurance policy.

Having a strong test score in your pocket is excellent insurance for a student. Imagine you are an admissions officer at a competitive college, and you have two students who attended competitive public schools in different states that were largely shut down the last three months of the students’ junior years. Both have high GPAs and impressive extracurriculars, but one has an SAT / ACT score in line with historical norms for the college and the other didn’t submit a score. Who would you lean toward? The additional SAT/ACT exam data corroborates and reinforces the student’s GPA and abilities, and may become the difference between an acceptance or a rejection letter.

Take advantage of this time to earn a competitive advantage.

The primary reason students resisted exam prep to increase their standardized test scores was fitting in time to study. Between school, homework, sports, a job, family and friends, it’s tough to fit everything in. But with summer sports, camps, jobs, and internships cancelled or substantially modified, students finally have the time they need to learn the skills and strategies necessary to boost their test scores.

Structure and routine are good for teenagers.

In general, routine is good for teenagers emotionally. Working through a test-prep program can provide structure, familiarity with types of questions on the exam, and test-taking strategies, as well as build confidence and reduce test anxiety as they progress through the program.

Many students need to refresh skills learned in past years.

The SAT and ACT assess a student’s skills from 7th and 8th grade to halfway through junior year. Many students have not retained quick recall of skills from past years. This results in SAT / ACT test scores that are not consistent with the student’s GPA. In turn, colleges then question the validity of the GPA on their transcript. “While some of test prep is certainly “teaching to the test,” we also identify past skills that need a refresh and teach students reading and test-taking strategies they will use for the rest of their lives,” Power says.

Work through that test anxiety.

Many students feel pressure around these tests. They say they are not good test takers. This is an opportunity that probably no other cohort of students has had or will have again—to study, improve scores and take the pressure off.

At Huntington Learning Center, our certified teachers have helped students prepare for SAT and ACT exams for over 43 years. The average SAT score increase from our students is 229 points; the average ACT composite score increase 5.4 points. We begin with a retired SAT or ACT practice test that generates 12–16 pages of diagnostics to identify skills deficiencies and individualizes each student’s program to deliver the exam score increases they are seeking.

To schedule your practice test evaluation, call 302-737-1150 or visit

*What’s this? This content is made possible by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the attitude, views, or opinions of the Delaware Today editorial staff.

Power Sessions

Jim Power, executive director at Huntington Learning Center, offers extra pointers for ACT/SAT prep.

What results have you seen from students who have taken the program?

The average point increase for students who have completed their SAT programs is 229 points, and for the ACT, 5.3 points.

How soon in their high school career can/should a student get ACT/SAT coaching? Do you see freshman or sophomores preparing early?

The skills assessed on these exams are up to halfway through junior year. So, there’s no benefit to freshman or sophomores unless they are very accelerated in their subject matriculation in school and have taken all subjects being assessed on SAT or ACT exams.

What sets these sessions apart from traditional SAT/ACT courses?

Huntington Learning Center offers one-on-one instruction. This is not a class; instead, all sessions are focused on re-teaching skills identified as weak on the original practice SAT/ACT. All students get reviews of skills and concepts, but our focus is on reteaching specific skills a student did not master, refined by periodic practice tests administered during their program.

How often are SAT/ACT sessions offered?

They are ongoing at our Newark location. Each session is two hours, and focuses on either Verbal or Math skills and strategies.

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