The Benefits of College Test Prep in a Test-Optional World

The rise of test-optional policies has sparked a debate about the relevance of standardized tests. An expert explains why college test prep remains the right choice for many students.

To test or not to test? An increasing number of students are facing college applications that are test-optional for the ACT or SAT. While it would have been unthinkable to skip these tests in the past, students now have a choice. It’s more important than ever to understand how test scores will affect your applications.

Dr. Joe Krupnick, founder of The Krupnick Approach, believes that test prep offers benefits for most students. “Many schools, especially the more selective ones, are going to assume that you prepared for and took these tests. If you choose not to submit your score, it could suggest to colleges that you didn’t think your score was good enough to submit,” says Krupnick.

Not all schools are test-optional

Ideally, college test prep begins long before a student decides what school they want to attend. In most cases, students begin test prep months or even years before taking the tests, much less applying to colleges and universities.

As Krupnick puts it, “You have to remember that not all schools are test-optional. If students opt out of test prep, that can limit their choices down the line.”

As a rule of thumb, schools more likely to require test scores are those in the southern regions of the US, foreign/international universities and more selective universities.  

Students can gain scoring benefits from college test prep

Even for colleges that are test-optional, most students still submit. A strong test score can provide a strategic advantage.  As recent evidence suggests, students who submit scores are, on average, about twice as likely to be accepted to selective colleges as students who do not submit scores. 

According to Krupnick, students should strongly consider submitting if their scores are above the 25th percentile for a given college’s range.  If they are scoring in the upper half of a college’s score range, they can significantly enhance their odds. 

Testing provides extra information for evaluation

In the broader context of a well-rounded college application, test prep is just one element. GPA, honors and AP tests, activities, recommendations, and essays are all important parts of a student’s application.

In the admissions process, more information is generally better, Krupnick says. Test scores complement all the other factors. 

“A good test score can put a student over the top in the evaluation process,” says Krupnick. “It’s one more piece of the puzzle that helps a school make a decision in your favor. Unlike a lot of other factors that go into an application, like an essay, a test score is not subjective. A number is perceived as indisputable evidence of high achievement.”

Test-optional colleges for ACT/SAT

How college test prep philosophy affects the outcome

After considering all the options, let’s say you decide your student would benefit from test prep. You may think that all you have to do is sign your child up for any prep course and your child is good to go. However, not all test prep is created equal. After years of studying test strategies and outcomes, Krupnick and his colleagues have a unique philosophy

“College test preparation goes beyond learning in high school,” says Krupnick. “We’ve done a lot of research to determine the unique challenges posed by the SAT and ACT. Unlike a high school math or English test where your teacher wants you to succeed, college tests like the SAT are essentially designed to trip you up.” 

In a high school class where creativity or critical thinking may play a role in your grade, college tests have a much different orientation, says Krupnick. Students need to learn how to think “like the test.” 

“Part of our prep is helping the student to understand what a test question is trying to do. The governing principle of the ACT and the SAT is that a student has to understand what to pay attention to and what is intended as a distraction,” Krupnick explains. “On the ACT or SAT, you can’t afford to think for too long or you’ll go down a rabbit hole. You need to learn how to answer the questions quickly.” 

In fact, as Krupnick notes, some of the most conscientious students find ACT/SAT difficult for this reason. “Students are used to having time to check their work and review their answers. It’s hard to imagine any academic teacher writing a test that they’ve designed for students not to finish.  But that is exactly what the evil geniuses at the ACT and College Board are doing,”  

Experienced, specialized tutors make a difference

One way The Krupick Approach boosts success is by pairing students one-on-one with tutors who are subject area experts. 

“Every one of our tutors is an expert in the subject they teach, with at least 15-20 years of experience coaching ACT/SAT prep. Our specialists contribute to a combined experience that allows students to leverage our strengths. Just like you wouldn’t want your math teacher teaching your English class, our specialists have subject-matter expertise that is customized to the specific needs of each student,” says Krupnick.  

Dr. Krupnick himself has his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard and only hires tutors with the experience, educational background and teaching style to help students make dramatic improvements on these tests.

The results speak for themselves. Krupnick Approach students average at least 7-point improvements on the ACT and at least 250-point improvements on the SAT over a few months of prep, representing by far the best track record in the Chicagoland area. 

As the landscape of college admissions continues to change, college test prep continues to be a strategic asset. In fact, test scores may even have more of an impact if a student chooses to include them.

“A great ACT/SAT score could actually be more helpful now than it was before test-optional,” says Krupnick.

For more information about test prep, college prep, and other services offered by The Krupnick Approach, visit, call or text (773)405-4775, or email


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