Dear QB: I’m worried about my standardized test scores. Any advice?


DearQBIt’s that time of year again – the time when high school students across the country begin to worry and obsessively troll college forums in hopes of finding out how much standardized test scores matter in college admissions. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as simple.

In brief: colleges do look at test scores. Test scores are sometimes (but not always) the easiest way of seeing if a student has the ability to be academically successful at that particular college.

However, it’s well known that test scores are not always clearly correlated to academic success. Some students simply don’t test well in a high stakes environment. That’s why test scores are simply one part of the “Academic” section of the college application. When admissions officers look at your application, they see test scores, but they also see:

  • Your transcript and the rigor of your courses, within the context of what your school is able to offer
  • Any trends in your grades throughout high school (what happened when you started taking harder classes?)
  • Teacher recommendations that give insight into your classroom engagement
  • Other nuances in your home and family situation that might have impacted your academic record over the years

Does that mean that test scores don’t really matter? No. But it does mean that applications aren’t thrown out simply because of one low score.

If you’re still worried about your test scores do these four things:

  1. Take a deep breath, and tell yourself “I am more than my test scores – no matter what happens during the college admissions process.”
  2. Head over to our website, and research the testing ranges of our college partners, as well as past Finalists. Look for schools where you might be an academic fit, but remember that you can still apply to schools that might be a reach for your academic profile.
  3. If you plan to take fall tests to improve your scores, read this information regarding the timing of test scores. Then use the summer to get a head start on studying so you aren’t rusty when the school year begins!
  4. Avoid negative and pessimistic college forums that obsessively compare test scores and admissions offers. Remember that every student’s situation is different.

Above all else, remember that QuestBridge and our college partners review applications holistically. You should keep your test scores in mind, but also focus on making sure all other parts of your application are stellar. If you do that, you will be able to prepare a college application that truly highlights your best self.