Since late in 2019, there have been some strange quirks in terms of standardized testing requirements for college entrance purposes.  Some years, tests were required by most colleges. Some years, tests were not required at all for many colleges, including a few Ivy League institutions. More often, numerous colleges regarded SAT and ACT scores to be “optional” and placed increased emphasis on high school GPAs, participation in extra-curricular activities, and even looking for internship experiences to round out a “strong” application.  (NOTE: During these times of standardized testing “uncertainty,” homeschoolers were encouraged to submit SAT and ACT scores to strengthen their academic portfolios and help move them to the top of the pile in college admissions offices.)

Some of this uncertainty in the standardized testing world surfaced during the pandemic years of 2020 through 2022/23.  Numerous colleges got rid of SAT and ACT exam requirements because testing centers were being closed in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. As a result, it became difficult for many students to even find an active test center, leave alone being able to insert themselves into severely limited testing schedules. 

During this period of changes and chaotic turn-arounds, the “gospel” according to admissions offices became a mixed message of “high school GPA scores are more predictive of success than are standardized tests,” and stressful testing situations where students reviewed and were tutored towards one goal – test scores as close to a perfect 1600 on the SAT and/or a “perfect” composite ACT score of 36.  This put students in the bind of studying/preparing and being mentored towards high scores rather than providing clear evidence of academic success in a well-rounded educational atmosphere.


Fast forward to academic year 2024-25.  Colleges across the U.S. are taking another look at what turned out to be “experimental” directions that initially sounded to be a panacea for both students and universities.  Many institutions are taking a second and third look at standardized testing assessments and “reverting” to the “old school” idea that ACT and SAT testing can help sort out promising applicants. So when Dartmouth’s then- Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid, Jeremiah Quinlan, hinted in an October 2023 Admissions Beat podcast interview, that testing is “an incredibly valuable part of Yale’s assessment,” the rest of the academic community took notice.  Quinlan even went so far as to say that “The SAT or the ACT is the single best predictor of a student’s academic performance at Yale.”

As early as 2022, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced a planned return to testing and joined a growing group of academic institutions working towards assessing entrance applications from students of multi-diverse backgrounds as well as applications from generally “underrepresented” areas of the country.

Echoing the perspective of testing organizations, Janet Godwin, CEO of ACT testing operations, writes that the organization is “bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels. And that’s partly because colleges still want to see the scores to help determine scholarships or eligibility for certain programs.” 

This spreading tendency to return to requiring ACT and SAT scores as part of a college application package basically reverses the widely held belief that “high-school grade point average is often a better indicator of future academic outcomes.” Dartmouth’s admissions office reinforced this idea when it announced that testing mandates will attract “the most promising and diverse students to our campus,” and that standardized test scores “represent an especially valuable tool to identify high-achieving applicants from low and middle-income backgrounds; who are first-generation college-bound; as well as students from urban and rural backgrounds.”


College entrance testing is going digital. 

For December 2023 exams, ACT offered a digital option, which was a bit of a surprise at the time.  This particular offering was a pilot program offered to a limited number of test takers. 

According to PrepScholar.com, the digital format vs. the old paper format is the “only major difference between the paper and digital ACT.  The digital ACT will have the same length, structure, and content as the paper ACT.”

All digital exams must be taken at an approved testing center. No digital ACT exams will be taken from home. In addition, exam takers must use an ACT-approved device to take the test. Currently, testing centers are providing students with approved digital devices to take the exam.

For some students, the choice whether to take the ACT or the SAT entrance exams is a difficult decision. The best thing you can do as a student is review the differences between the two exams and then decide which option is better for you.  For a handy chart that clearly displays the differences between the SAT and ACT, visit Digital ACT December 2023: Everything You Need to Know (prepscholar.com) and scroll down to the table titled “How Does the Digital ACT Compare to the Digital SAT?”


Matthew DeGreef, former admissions officer at Harvard University and now dean of college counseling at a boarding school in Concord, Massachusetts, summed up the current situation: “Clearly, this is a sign there could be more change,” he wrote. “We just don’t know what it is yet in a season of so much change.”

So get ready to roll with changing times and be prepared for this issue to continue at a certain level of volatility.  In the meantime – it might be better for homeschoolers (and other high school students) to sharpen up their test taking skills, be prepared for fully digital testing modes, keep updated on current requirements, relax, and – go with the flow! (And homeschoolers – be sure you are keeping a detailed record of your academic progress, including titles and descriptions of all courses you have completed, along with your consolidated progress reports and homeschool GPA.  You will likely be required to include all this information in an application package to most U.S. colleges.)


Yale Weighs Reversing SAT Testing After Dartmouth, MIT Shift (msn.com)

SAT exams will see big changes in 2024. What students need to know. (usatoday.com)

As nearly 2,000 universities scrap ACT and SAT, Dartmouth reverses course (newsbreak.com)

Some colleges are bringing back the SAT and ACT requirement – Marketplace

Digital ACT December 2023: Everything You Need to Know (prepscholar.com)

Best Online ACT® Prep Course | Practice Tests and Questions I Free trial (uworld.com)

The SAT Will Go Completely Digital by 2024 – The New York Times (nytimes.com)