Grades or Test Scores: Which Are More Important for College Admissions?

Now this is a very good question with quite a complicated answer (and I am a math-girl, so lets look at things as mathematically as possible)!!

Grades are considered the number one indicator of college admissions to this day…BUT there is a catch!  These grades depend on the rigor of the curriculum and the courses that you take.  If you are in all AP classes, then PERHAPS college admissions will not rely as heavily on your tests scores…or will they?

Yes, grades are important.  They are very important, but the rise of applications colleges receive is on the up and up.  This means that test scores are probably more and more important in determining whether your application is even considered.  That is right, you can spend countless hours writing essays and applying to schools, but it really doesn’t matter how great your essays are if your application is immediately sent into the trash bin.

Top colleges have an incredible amount of applications and test scores can help you stand out from the crowd.  And to be honest, the more selective a school is, the more important test scores are.

MYTH: If I focus on my test scores my grades will slip and then I wont get accepted.

You see, test scores have an extremely low time commitment to weight ratio.  So the time it takes (lets say 4 months) of very consistent studying can make a huge difference on your admissions.  Grades- on the other hand- take very much time (4 whole years) and count for a big portion of your admission but not the same relative proportion as test scores.


Let’s look at the NACACs admission trend survey from 2011

SOURCE: NACAC Admission Trends Survey, 2011

TRUTH: You get more bang-for-your-buck with high test scores.

Colleges look at grades over the past 4 years.  So perhaps your grades are mediocre, or your classes were not the most rigorous, but never fear, because you can make up for all of that with a few months of focused and hard work!  The truth is, is that a very high test score can put you into a category where exceptions are made.

Maybe your GPA is not super-high, but you got a 1540 on your SAT!  That says a lot.

Test scores: 4 months of work —>  about 59% weight of considerable importance

Grades: 4 years (48 months) of work —> about 84% weight of considerable importance and that is only

for the college-prep academics!  Other grades are actually only 51% considerable importance.  I hope you are seeing what I mean!

Also, perhaps you wont have to take any time out of your academic studies, you can just cutback on extra-curricular activities until you have the score of your dreams because as you see on the chart, almost no schools consider them of considerable importance.

Let’s do a hypothetical ratio saying that grades are 75% of college admissions and test scores are only 25%, and all else is irrelevant.

48 months of work: 75% implies that there is a 1.56% gain per month toward college admission.

4 months of work: 25% implies over a 6.25% gain in admissions per month.

Myth: Test Scores don’t matter anymore

This is anything but the truth.  As I mentioned earlier, admissions are getting more and more competitive and you need high scores to even be considered.  Also if you are looking for any scholarships or financial assistance based on merit, test scores are almost always a criteria for award-levels.  High test scores = MORE MONEY!

Okay I digress…I think you understand what I am saying here.

  1. In terms of time commitment, SAT and ACT are worth the effort, even if grades slip a bit for a time.

  2. Colleges may act like test scores are important, but they most certainly are and can be the difference between someone actually cracking open your application, or not even bothering to look.

  3. Test scores are still important and can save you big bucks in the end.

Contact me or any other reputable tutor for more information as to how to grow and improve your test scores!!  A few months of effort could get you into the college of your dreams, and help you get more scholarship money.


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