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How Test Scores May Impact Your College Acceptance

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Test scores are strategically listed after your transcripts. While that may mean that they're less important than your grades, at schools which require them, they're still significant. Sometimes, they can make or break your application.

Why test scores matter for college acceptance

In general, it's fair to say that admission officials prefer students who demonstrate their ability to perform well in school. This information will be reflected on your transcript. Your test scores are important because they help admission officers get a more focused picture of the type of student you are.

You may barely squeeze by in the race for a spot if your test scores are terrific but your transcript is loaded with C's. On the other hand, your favorite college may never admit you based solely on poor test scores. For that reason, it's a good idea to take your tests seriously, even if you have stellar grades and don't think your scores matter so much. Especially at the most selective colleges, the smallest differences between applications can mean the difference between a receiving a college admission letter or a rejection letter.

Test scores in the admission decision

Colleges will consider test scores before sending out college admission letters. In reviewing the numbers, admission officers will be looking at patterns and indicators to determine the following:

  • Is your testing pattern consistent? Did you clearly have an off day?
  • Are your scores compatible with your academic achievement? If not, why not?
  • Do you have strengths in one area (e.g., language, math, etc.), but weaknesses in others?
  • Did you take your tests taken under special conditions (e.g., extended time)? Do you have a diagnosed disability?
  • Do you come from a disadvantaged background?
  • Is English spoken at home?
  • Did you take SAT Subject Tests close to course completion or a year or more later? If your language test scores were low, how many years of study did you have?

The bottom line about scores and college acceptance

Test scores are just one of a number of factors that are taken into account when you apply to college. That being said, schools wouldn't ask to see them if they didn't matter. Put some time into getting ready because they will have an impact on the admissions decision!

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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