Is the SAT Still Relevant? What You Need to Know

Students studying for the SAT
April 26, 2024
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Do you think the SAT is no longer relevant in university admission? You might want to change your mind, and here’s why.

According to the nonprofit advocacy group National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest for short, approximately 1,750 four-year colleges have announced plans to make the SAT optional for first-year applicants. 

While test-optional policies have always been around, there has recently been a sharp increase, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many students could not take standardized tests due to restrictions and the closures of testing sites. 

As more and more schools have made the SAT optional, people started believing that the SAT is no longer relevant today. If you’ve fallen into this trap, this article will explain why the SAT is still relevant and important.

Is the SAT Still Important?

Is the SAT still relevant or important? Though many universities no longer require the SAT, we can answer that question with a firm and confident “yes.” Just because it is optional doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Schools still encourage you to take the SAT if your conditions permit it. 

The primary reason schools make the test optional is to accommodate applicants who need to be in a better position due to their circumstances. These circumstances may include the following:

  • A lack of test centers or difficulties with reaching test centers
  • Income or financial troubles
  • Accessibility issues
  • Difficulties with handling test-related stress
  • Difficulties with registering (such as any technical barriers with online registration)

Experts believe that making the SAT optional will equalize the admission process, especially for applicants less privileged or accustomed to the SAT’s testing process. Now, you no longer have to worry that your inability to take the exam will negatively impact your college applications.

One commonly seen example is that test-optional policies are considered fair for gifted students that need to improve at taking standardized tests. Making SAT score submission a choice alleviates stress and adds more room for applicants to apply in their best environments. 

However, for students who can take and complete the test with little to no issues, college admissions experts encourage every student to take the SAT at least once as long as their conditions permit. 

Thus, it is very important to remember that schools make their admissions process test-optional to accommodate circumstance-based limitations, not because the SAT is unimportant. 

While rare, some schools are test-blind, meaning they won’t consider your SAT scores, regardless of whether or not you submit them. Regarding test-blind schools, the SAT is not an important admissions requirement. However, for all others, the SAT is still very much important.

Reasons Why the SAT Still Matters

The main reason why the SAT is still important is the impact an SAT score can have on your application. If you listen to university admission counselors and experts, they often say, “based on how well you perform, you can decide whether or not to submit your scores.”

Getting a good score on the SAT can serve as proof of great academic performance. It reflects skill, knowledge, and competency, all of the admission committee values. SAT scores might be more effective than GPA or high school transcripts when proving academic aptitude.

The thing is, each school has different curriculums that vary in content and difficulty. Therefore a student with a 3.5 GPA may not be more academically successful than a 3.0 GPA student if the latter has a more advanced curriculum than the former student. This is why some schools require your weighted GPA. 

Where The SAT Comes In

On the other hand, the SAT, unlike high school curricula, is standardized, no matter where you take it. It is a standardized assessment of academic aptitude that many universities use for applicant evaluation. 

Universities generally deem transcripts more important than the SAT. Transcripts are evaluated case-by-case, so the numbers don’t correlate to academic success as firmly as the SAT score. Transcripts are more important, but a good SAT score effectively makes you look like a more academically promising applicant. 

Also, if you submit a low SAT score, your admission chances are quite low. The bottom line is that your SAT score certainly impacts your application, one that can either help or harm you. 

Other Relevances

But the SAT isn’t just important on its own. Your SAT score also serves a valuable role in conjunction with the rest of your application. Good test scores can validate other documents (especially academic documents, like your GPA) and make you look more promising and convincing compared to an applicant with the same documents but no SAT score. 

One more thing to be aware of is that schools may be test-optional with caveats. For example, a test-optional college may still require SAT scores for certain programs or types of applicants, like out-of-state applicants. Many scholarship applications also require SAT scores, even though the school is test-optional.

FAQs: Is the SAT Still Relevant?

So, is the SAT still important or relevant? Hopefully, now you know the full picture. But just in case you still have questions, our FAQs can help you with what you’re looking for.

1. Is the SAT Still Important in 2023?

Yes, the SAT is still important; many schools still consider SAT to be a reliable measurement in evaluating the academic aptitude of applicants. Although many schools are test-optional, admissions officers will review your SAT scores if you decide to submit them.

2. Is the SAT Becoming Obsolete?

No, it’s not.  According to the 2022 SAT Suite of Assessments Annual Report, 1.7 million students in the high school class of 2022 took the SAT at least once. This is an increase from 1.5 million in the class of 2021. Students across nearly 200 countries take the SAT to apply to universities each year. 

In a survey, 83% of students said they want the option to submit test scores to colleges. The SAT is still considered important and valuable, not just by schools but by students as well. 

3. Do Colleges Still Care About the SAT?

Yes, colleges still care about the SAT. Universities still widely consider the SAT a reliable method of assessing a student’s academic capabilities, especially in areas like mathematics, English, reading comprehension, decision-making, reasoning, and many other things involved in an SAT.

4. Is the SAT Still Worth Taking?

If taking and completing the SAT is doable for you without any major difficulties, and you are confident you can get a good SAT score, then the answer is yes. 

If you need help taking and completing the SAT or face too many challenges that make it hard to do well, you can omit the SAT.

5. How Do I Decide Whether or Not I Should Submit My SAT Score?

Admission experts suggest looking at scores ranging between the 25th and 75th percentile of  previously admitted students. This information can usually be found on the school’s official website. 

If your score is in the upper half of that range or higher, then the SAT will help your chances, and you should submit it. If your SAT score is in the lower half or less than it, then the SAT score will harm your chances, and you should not submit it. 

If you cannot find information on the 25th and 75th percentile, try looking for the median SAT score for the last admitted class. If your SAT is greater than the median, it is worth submitting, and vice versa.

Final Thoughts

Now you better understand the question: “is the SAT still relevant?” And the answer is, once again, a firm and confident yes. Even though more and more schools are making the SAT optional, the importance of SAT remains high. The only change is that schools allow you to decide“to SAT or not to SAT.” 

And, as mentioned before, schools still encourage you to take the SAT at least once as long as your circumstances permit you to do so. This SAT study plan can help prepare you for the SAT. Remember, a good SAT score offers many advantages, so maximize your opportunities.

Best wishes!

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