Pet Peeve: Test Optional at top Prep School Opinions

Is not submitting standardized test going to harm the applicant or should we trust as the school says that it will not “put you at a disadvantage”.

Well, if a student did not submit a test score, it’s probably because (a. They are unable to access the SSAT under COVID-19 and SSAT at home isn’t available or (b. in which the student simply took the SSAT but was dissatisfied at their test scores, so they decided not to submit them.

I think it might put you at a slight disadvantage if scenario B is the case. Schools will put applicants from the same area (if possible) side by side, and if applicant A submitted a test score but applicant B didn’t, then they would probably guess that applicant B did not get a good score on the test.

If it’s scenario A, then schools would completely ignore the SSAT and instead look at your grades and recs to determine whether or not you are academically qualified for their school.

After all, test scores is just a small part of the application, and it is never the determining factor for accepting applicants.

The SSAT is never the thing that gets a kid admitted. Several AOs I know put attach very little importance to it. So I doubt it’ll make a huge difference.

Way more than college, BS applications are viewed holistically with one of the biggest deciders being “will this kid be able to live independent of their parents and thrive as a member of this community?” Nothing in the SSAT speaks to that. And lots of kids with really high SSAT scores are not admitted every year while kids with lower scores are.

There tend to be a lot of other things on an application that will fill in most of those gaps for them.

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This is an excerpt from the Deerfield Scroll in November.

“Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Charles Davis shares that admissions officers are having difficulty calibrating students based on the different sets of data without the standardized tests. Decisions between two different approaches to the selection process are still being made, briefly outlined by either separating students with and without test scores into different pools, or considering all candidates equally from the start and later evaluating further with the extra addition of test scores.

Davis explained, “The natural concern is that we are always prone to exercising our biases, and we want to cut those down and be as objective as possible, so if someone were to not submit their test, we need clarity on if the reason is because of their circumstance or because their scores weren’t good enough.”


In the earliest AO events we went to, two different high profile school made it clear they expected the test, of course, unless there was a legitimate, explainable reason who you didn’t take it. This position was softened eventually but I felt we should accept that was the case. Data points are useful to schools as part of larger package.

DS studied, took, and retook just like a normal application season. The online version of the test was a little wonky and he had a size able jump the second time he took it, simply from being familiar with everything. I don’t doubt his test score was lower than it might have been.

But in my experience, grades are less reliable in the younger days than test scores and a on the spot writing sample.

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^^ I have heard several AOs say that they feel the spot writing sample is more telling than the SSAT. I don’t doubt that when they have the SSAT as a data point that they find it useful for triangulation but I also tend to believe them when they say they can do quite well without the scores.


If the school says testing will not impact the application, trust them. AOs are not playing mind games with you, they have no reason to.