Test-Optional vs. Test-Flexible vs. Test-Blind

Test-Optional vs. Test-Flexible vs. Test-Blind

Test optional, test flexible and test blind refer to admissions policies with reference to the SAT or ACT. There may be slight variations between colleges as to exactly what these terms imply.

In general:


‘Test Optional’ means it is not mandatory for students to submit their SAT or ACT scores as part of their application. For colleges that have a test-optional admissions policy, the applicant’s high school academic record is the most important assessment criteria. Next in importance are the applicant’s personal essay, recommendation letters, extracurricular activities, and the personal interview. A test-optional college may be a great choice for you if you prefer that colleges assess your application based on another important factor, like your high school grades or accomplishments.

Test Flexible

Colleges that have a ‘Test-Flexible’ admissions policy allow applicants to submit various standardized test scores to support their application. Every college has its own list of scores that it will accept. Some may accept International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement exam scores. While others may accept the scores of the ACT Assessment Test or the SAT Reasoning Test. You must find out the details from each school so you know which test scores you are required to submit.

Test Blind

‘Test Blind’ means students are not required to submit any standardized test scores. There are several variations of this admissions policy. Some colleges may exempt applicants who have scored above a certain grade point average. While others may leave it up to the student to decide whether or not they want to submit their scores.

If you are unclear about a school’s admission policy, make sure you check their website or reach out to admissions!


Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC


6 Tips to Plan your SAT Practice

6 Tips to Plan your SAT Practice

by Khan Academy

One of the challenges you will face with the SAT is figuring out what kind of study schedule works for you and will best prepare you to succeed. An SAT study plan is not one size fits all, so what works for your friends or classmates may not work for you. In fact, students who have taken the SAT have used very different approaches with very different focuses, as you’ll see in our sample study guides for the redesigned SAT written by current high school students.
You should definitely consider your study preferences, SAT goals, and resources before deciding on a study plan. In general, we recommend starting your SAT prep early. About three months before your test should give you enough of a buffer to try a few study approaches and get comfortable with the test content.
When you create your Official SAT Practice schedule, the system will suggest how often you should practice and how many full-length tests to take based on the amount of time before your test. You’ll also choose the times each week that you want to do focused practice on improving your different skills.
For more tips on how to study and manage your time, see these ideas from fellow students:
  • Diagnose your skills early on. Even if you don’t plan on studying during the months leading up to the SAT, we advise you to take a diagnostic on Khan Academy or complete the PSAT/NMSQT, six months before the test. That way, you’ll have a good sense of how close you are to your SAT goal. If you have a lot of skills to learn, you might want to start studying earlier than you’d planned. Fariha suggests: “Figure out what areas you need to focus on the most, and keep practicing. Don’t get discouraged if at first it is difficult to understand or learn, the more you practice the easier it will get.”
  • Take at least two full practice tests. We recommend taking at least one fully-timed practice test toward the beginning of your studying, and one toward the end. We also recommend you take at least one practice test on paper, which is how the actual SAT is administered, so you can get comfortable with the format. Taking a full-length practice test provides a realistic sense of how long the test is and where you tend to get tired or mentally blocked. Yes, it’s at least three hours of hard work, but if your first full SAT is on Test Day, you may find yourself unpleasantly surprised by how taxing all of that intense thinking can be. You can’t train for a marathon just by doing sprints! Gaeun says: “Full practice tests are invaluable. Taking at least two before the actual test helps you gain some sense of what it’s like to sit for four hours taking the SAT. Timing yourself strictly and accurately is essential when taking these tests.”
  • Familiarize yourself with the instructions for each test section. The sequence of the sections and the directions for each section will be the same for every SAT. Time that you spend trying to understand the instructions on Test Day is time wasted. Hannah says: “If I take the SAT again … I would want to better know what would be expected of me on the writing portion, by looking at some kind of rubric or other guide.”
  • Study outside the box. Mix up your SAT prep with some general skill-building. Read and summarize long articles and scientific studies to prepare for the Reading Test. Read editorial articles or essays and pay attention to how the writer constructs his or her argument to prepare for the optional essay. These approaches may not be enough on their own, but there’s no more sure way to reinforce a skill and build your understanding than to apply what you know to the real world. Eric advises: “Don’t underestimate the power of reading books. Reading in bulk not only increases your world knowledge and cultural awareness, but it also helps exercise your brain to pick up on finer details and make extrapolations based on context. It will make the critical reading and writing sections more enjoyable and allow you to think clearer. Read often, read lots.”
  • Take a break the night before the test. We know this can be hard advice to follow—why would you waste any critical study time right before the SAT? But it’s important to make sure you’re rested and relaxed when you wake up for the test. Studying at the last minute can introduce extra stress, lower your confidence, and wear you out. Instead, we recommend you do something calm and enjoyable, like watching a favorite movie or playing soccer with friends, to take your mind off the test and put yourself in a good mood. David says: “Please, do not study the SATs the night before the exam! Our neurons need some rest too.”
  • Set yourself up for success on Test Day. What everyone says is true—a good night’s sleep can make all the difference. Make sure you go to bed early the night before the test and clock a full night of sleep (at least 8 hours). It may help to go to bed a little earlier every night the week before the test so an early bedtime on Friday feels natural. Wake up early on Saturday so you have plenty of time to warm up your brain before the SAT starts, and eat a full, healthy breakfast so you’re not distracted by hunger or discomfort during the test. And don’t forget to organize your supplies in advance! You’ll need No. 2 pencils and a calculator to take the test, and you will not be allowed into the test room without a valid photo ID and a printed copy of your SAT test registration. The more you do to feel prepared and rested before the SAT, the more you’ll be able to focus on success while taking the test. Rushi says: “Try to get as much sleep as possible before the exam. You’re most likely already prepared, and the extra sleep will help you think properly during the SAT.”

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC


Understanding Test Anxiety

Understanding Test Anxiety

If this sounds like you, you may have a case of test anxiety — that nervous feeling that people sometimes get when they’re about to take a test.

It’s normal to feel a little nervous and stressed before a test. Just about everyone does. And a little nervous anticipation can actually help you do better on a test.

But for some people, test anxiety is more intense. The nervousness they feel before a test can be so strong that it interferes with their concentration or performance.

What Is Test Anxiety?

Test anxiety is actually a type of performance anxiety — a feeling someone might have in a situation where performance really counts or when the pressure’s on to do well. For example, a person might have performance anxiety just before trying out for the school play, singing a solo on stage, getting into position at the pitcher’s mound, stepping onto the platform in a diving meet, or going into an important interview.

Like other situations in which a person might feel performance anxiety, test anxiety can bring on “butterflies,” a stomachache, or a headache. Some people might feel shaky or sweaty, or feel their heart beating quickly as they wait for the test to be given out. A student with really strong test anxiety may even feel like he or she might pass out or throw up.

Test anxiety is not the same as doing poorly on a certain test because your mind is on something else. Most people know that having other things on their minds — such as a breakup or the death of someone close — can interfere with their concentration and prevent them from doing their best on a test.

What Causes It?

All anxiety is a reaction to anticipating something stressful. Like other anxiety reactions, test anxiety affects the body and the mind.

When you’re under stress, your body releases the hormone adrenaline, which prepares it for danger (you may hear this referred to as the “fight or flight” reaction). That’s what causes the physical symptoms, such as sweating, a pounding heart, and rapid breathing. These sensations might be mild or intense.

Focusing on the bad things that could happen also fuels test anxiety. For example, someone worrying about doing poorly might have thoughts like, “What if I forget everything I know?” or “What if the test is too hard?” Too many thoughts like these leave no mental space for thinking about the test questions. People with test anxiety can also feel stressed out by their physical reaction: “What if I throw up?” or “Oh no, my hands are shaking.”

Just like other types of anxiety, test anxiety can create a bad cycle: The more a person focuses on the negative things that could happen, the stronger the feeling of anxiety becomes. This makes the person feel worse and, with a head is full of distracting thoughts and fears, can increase the chances that he or she will do poorly on the test.

Who’s Likely to Have Test Anxiety?

People who worry a lot or who are perfectionists are more likely to have trouble with test anxiety. People with these traits sometimes find it hard to accept mistakes they might make or to get anything less than a perfect score. In this way, even without meaning to, they might really pressure themselves. Test anxiety is bound to thrive in a situation like this.

Students who aren’t prepared for tests but who care about doing well are also likely to have test anxiety. If you know you’re not prepared, it’s a no-brainer to realize that you’ll be worried about doing poorly. People can feel unprepared for tests for several reasons: They may not have studied enough, they may find the material difficult, or perhaps they feel tired because didn’t get enough sleep the night before.

What Can You Do?

Test anxiety can be a real problem if you’re so stressed out over a test that you can’t get past the nervousness to focus on the test questions and do your best work. Feeling ready to meet the challenge, though, can keep test anxiety at a manageable level.

Use a little stress to your advantage. Stress is your body’s warning mechanism — it’s a signal that helps you prepare for something important that’s about to happen. So use it to your advantage. Instead of reacting to the stress by dreading, complaining, or fretting about the test with friends, take an active approach. Let stress remind you to study well in advance of a test. Chances are, you’ll keep your stress from spinning out of control. After all, nobody ever feels stressed out by thoughts that they might do well on a test.

Ask for help. Although a little test anxiety can be a good thing, an overdose of it is another story. If sitting for a test gets you so stressed out that your mind goes blank and causes you to miss answers that you know, then your level of test anxiety probably needs some attention. Your teacher, a school guidance counselor, or a tutor can be good people to talk to test anxiety gets to be too much to handle

Be prepared. Some students think that going to class is all it should take to learn and do well on tests. But there’s much more to learning than just hoping to soak up everything in class. That’s why good study habits and skills are so important — and why no amount of cramming or studying the night before a test can take the place of the deeper level of learning that happens over time with good study skills.

Many students find that their test anxiety eases when they start to study better or more regularly. It makes sense — the more you know the material, the more confident you’ll feel. Having confidence going into a test means you expect to do well. When you expect to do well, you’ll be able to relax into a test after the normal first-moment jitters pass.

Watch what you’re thinking. If expecting to do well on a test can help you relax, what about if you expect you won’t do well? Watch out for any negative messages you might be sending yourself about the test. They can contribute to your anxiety.

If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts (“I’m never any good at taking tests” or “It’s going to be terrible if I do badly on this test”), replace them with positive messages. Not unrealistic positive messages, of course, but ones that are practical and true, such as “I’ve studied hard and I know the material, so I’m ready to do the best I can.”

Accept mistakes. Another thing you can do is to learn to keep mistakes in perspective — especially if you’re a perfectionist or you tend to be hard on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, and you may have even heard teachers or coaches refer to mistakes as “learning opportunities.” Learning to tolerate small failures and mistakes — like that one problem you got wrong in the math pop quiz — is a valuable skill.

Take care of yourself. It can help to learn ways to calm yourself down and relax when you’re tense or anxious. For some people, this might mean learning a simple breathing exercise. Practicing breathing exercises regularly (when you’re not stressed out) helps your body see these exercises as a signal to relax.

SAT and ACT Preparation: Free and Low-cost resources

SAT and ACT Preparation: Free and Low-cost resources

Rising juniors! Start your test prep over the summer or in the fall. Here are some free and low-cost opportunities (websites, portals, prep books) to prepare for the ACT and SAT.



  • ACT Academy & Related Test Prep from the ACT
    • ACT Test Prep (FREE)
    • The Real or Official ACT Prep Guide (Available online for about $30 – red book)


  • ePrep
    • ePrep Online Prep for SAT, ACT, PreACT, PSAT (self-study videos, practice, quizzes) (low cost and recommended by many educational consultants)


  • Magoosh
    • Magoosh Online Prep for SAT, ACT (self-study, videos, practice, quizzes, flashcards) (low cost and recommended by many educational consultants)


  • Erica Meltzer Prep Books ACT and SAT 
    • Erica Meltzer Prep Books for SAT and ACT Grammar, Math, Reading available online at ThriftBooks and elsewhere. (About $30 each and recommended by many educational consultants)



  • Applerouth 
    • Applerouth FREE and for purchase study guides
    • SAT/ACT Diagnostics 
    • Group and Individual Test Prep 





  • Test-Guide 
    • Free SAT & ACT practice quizzes & tests


  • 4 Tests

 4Tests –  practice SAT & ACT questions




  • Study.com (account required)
    • FREE Study.com video lessons & practice SAT & ACT tests





  • SAT Math YouTube Channel 

(geared primarily towards international students but math relevant to US students)


  • College Panda Books & Practice Tests 

(suggested by several educational consultants)


  • Manhattan Prep ACT “5 lb.” Prep Book for ACT Math and Science


  • Reddit has a very active SAT board


  • READING & MOVIE WATCHING – (suggested by several educational consultants)
    • A good free and easy way to practice for reading is also to work on skimming and retention when doing homework: If a chapter of history or a novel is assigned, skim the first page or two, quiz yourself to see what you retained (if there are questions for homework, go look and see if you can answer them), and then go back and actually do the assignment properly. It takes an extra couple of minutes of homework time and does WONDERS to prepare for entrance exams. 
    • Another idea is to watch Austen and Dickens movies to get “old-fashioned” voices in their head so that they can “hear” the authors better when they read older passages.

Questions on when is best to take the tests, which test is best for you, and how colleges evaluate tests? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil


Testing Accommodations – Quick Facts

Testing Accommodations – Quick Facts


Where are requests submitted and managed?Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Online Dashboard


Test Accessibility and Accommodations (TAA) Online System


Who can access the online system?Schools only (work with your school’s “SSD Coordinator” to submit)


Schools only (work with your school’s ACT “Test Coordinator” to submit)


Do I have to register for a test before I request accommodations?


I have a learning disability. How recent does my psychoeducational evaluation need to be?


Within the last 5 years


Within the last 3 academic years


How long do I need to have had and used formal school accommodations before submitting a request?


Four months (Note: in our experience, the College Board is more likely to grant requests for students who have used accommodations for at least one school year.)


One year (Note: Overall, the ACT is more skeptical of a recent diagnosis and plan.)


Once I submit my request, how long will it take to receive a response?


Up to seven weeks


Up to two weeks (often much faster if the first request includes all the right documentation)


How long do my accommodations last? Do I need to submit a new request for each test I take?


Generally speaking, accommodations remain in place until one year after high school graduation and apply to any PSAT, SAT Subject Test, AP Exam you take during that time. You do not need to submit a new request through SSD online.


ACT accommodations apply to the specific test you registered for when you made your initial request. To apply the accommodations to future tests, you’ll need to request them again, and your TAA Coordinator must approve them.


How do I contact the testing company?


Contact SSD Email: ssd@info.collegeboard.org Phone: 212-713-8333 Fax: 866-360-0114 College Board SSD Program P.O. Box 7504 London, KY 40742-7504


Call ACT, Inc. at 319-337-1332


Are You Better at the ACT or SAT?

Are You Better at the ACT or SAT?

 by Dr. Fred Zhang 

Because colleges accept both the ACT and SAT, it can be had to figure out which test to take. The changes to the SAT in 2016 made the two tests more similar than ever, although there are still some significant differences in content and format between the two tests.

So how can you tell if you’ll do better on the SAT or ACT? Drawing on my experience as a 99 percentile scorer on both the SAT and ACT, I’ll give you a surefire way to figure out which test will result in the best outcome for you.

The Gold Standard of Deciding Between the ACT and SAT

There are enough differences between the ACT and the SAT that, empirically, it is difficult to predict beforehand if you’ll be better at one than the other. The method I’m going to describe is the best way to be sure of seeing how you’ll do on the SAT or ACT.

You can use this information in many ways: to figure out what test to study, to see which scholarships you should apply to, and so forth. Once you’ve used this method, you don’t have to guess.

What’s the method?  It’s to take both a real practice SAT and a real practice ACT.


Who Should Use This Method?

Taking practice tests is called the gold standard for a reason — it gives super precise information about which test you’ll perform better on. However, taking two full-length practice tests is also time-consuming. You should definitely use this method if one of the following applies to you:


#1: You’re Studying for 40+ Hours

If you’re going to focus on studying seriously, especially for more than 40 hours, it makes sense to make sure you’re spending it studying for the right test. Conversely, if you have fewer than 40 hours left (for example, only 20 hours), you should probably not spend 8 hours figuring out what test to take.

#2: You’re Willing to Invest Time and Energy in Studying

If you care about your scores and are generally willing to invest the effort to get the best score, then taking a realistic practice SAT and a realistic practice ACT is a must. This method is not only good for telling if you’re better at the ACT or SAT, but is also good practice in and of itself. If you’re serious about the SAT or ACT, it would be a mistake not to do this.


How Do I Find Out Whether I’m Better at the ACT or SAT?


Step 1: Take a Full Practice SAT and a Full Practice ACT

Get a real ACT practice test and a real SAT practice test (you can click on the links to get three of each for free). Make sure to choose one that you have not already used. Also, ideally, you should create a realistic testing environment with a timer, calculator, watch, and a quiet room.

Now schedule four hours on two separate days to take the practice tests. You want to take them on separate days so that you’re not more rested for one than the other.

Most important of all, make sure your testing environment is similar on both days. The comparisons will not be valid if you take one at 10 AM in a quiet library with plenty of sleep, and another at 8 PM in a noisy house after eating a heavy meal.


Step 2: Convert Your ACT Score to an SAT Score

Now that you have both scores, use our ACT to SAT score conversion tools and tables to convert your ACT score to its SAT equivalent.

Example: Mary got a 29 on her practice ACT. She uses the table linked above to convert this to 1340. Mary got 1200 out of 1600 on her SAT.


Step 3: Compare Your Scores and Make the Call

If your score difference is more than 100 points in either direction, then you have a clear winner. You have done substantially better on one test than the other. You know which one you are better at! Moreover, a 100-point difference is substantial, and colleges will reward you for the better score.

Continuing from the example above, Mary’s ACT score is equivalent to a 1340 SAT score, while her SAT score is 1200. This means her ACT score is 140 points better than her SAT. She is definitely better at the ACT.

If your score difference is less than 100 points, then you don’t have a natural disadvantage on either test. The point difference is likely due to chance, and you could study for and score equally well on either test.