Debunking the Standardized Test Myths: The College Board

17 Jul

Perhaps because standardized tests are an integral part of applications to universities abroad, many myths exist around it. It’s important to understand the truth behind these tests though, as that can have a direct and significant impact on your applications. In this article, I have attempted to shatter some of the myths or hearsays that exist about standardized tests such as the SAT.

Standardized test scores (SAT, ACT) matter more than anything else

NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counselling), a globally renowned organization, conducted a survey with college admissions officers in 2012, asking them how important different factors were in the admission decision. (1) Grades in college prep courses and (2) the strength of the curriculum being followed by the student, received far more weightage than Standardized Admission Test Scores (such as SAT/ACT). So, while excellent test scores definitely are important, and do help in strengthening your application, your academic transcript is one of the most important components in the application, because it demonstrates diligence and commitment over multiple years, as opposed to one test score from one day.

Taking Standardized Tests Multiple Times Can Improve the Score

Several studies show that taking tests multiple times won’t significantly improve your score; in fact, some indicate that scores start dipping if students take standardized tests too many times. If you feel you didn’t do your best in your first attempt, spend time to understand what went wrong, practice, and then take the test a second time. If you do your first attempt early enough, in Grade 11, you will have time to retake a test later. However, be realistic about your potential. Not everyone can get a perfect score. Instead of striving for something unrealistic, spend time on other critical components of your application.

“I shouldn’t apply to colleges where my test scores are below their published range”

The test scores colleges shown on the websites of colleges and universities are averages, not ‘cut-offs’. There are students at every college who scored lower than the scores shown. You should not feel discouraged to apply to competitive colleges if you’ve missed the mark on the tests, but have another very strong component in your application. For example, you might not have scored as well in your SAT as you would have liked, but you are a national level player in a particular sport. In such a case, your profile is so strong in another area, that you should definitely not feel discouraged to apply to a school of your choice.

Standardized tests are harder on some dates and easier on others

Globally renowned tests, such as the SAT, are created using very scientific processes which ensure that students are always being tested in a fair environment. That means that whether you take a test in January or in October, the level of difficulty and how it reflects upon the final score, remains standardized. In fact, on the SAT, for example, a section of the exam does not count towards your finalscore, it is merely being tested / experimented with so that it can be used on a future exam. Hence, there is no truth to the myth that tests vary in difficulty level at different times.

Such myths can impact the way students approach standardized tests – so it’s important to dispel them and understand the truth behind the tests.


Lisa Jain College Board PictureLisa Jain is the Representative of The College Board in India. In her role, she works extensively with schools across India to support implementation of College Board programs. She also interacts directly with students and parents, educating them about how College Board’s programs and resources (such as SAT, AP, PSAT or Big Future) help in the college application and admission process.


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