Matt's Past SAT/ACT News Update

Matt O'Connor

Apr 03, 2020

Amid a re-assessment of the use of the SAT and ACT in admissions, the University of California has followed the lead of many other colleges and universities by announcing that UC will suspend the testing requirement for applicants seeking admission in the fall of 2021. As with other institutions, UC has made this decision due to the educational disruption and testing cancellations caused by the pandemic. There is still plenty of time until the November 1- November 30 UC application window for the 2021 fall class opens, but the continuing uncertainty regarding future testing dates has influenced UC's decision.

[Excerpts from the EdSource article linked above follow:]

The University of California is drastically relaxing its fall 2021 admissions standards for applicants who are currently high school juniors, including suspending the requirement that they take standardized tests and allowing pass/fail grades for this spring’s classes affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a university announcement Wednesday.

The dramatic action came in response to the cancellation of testing by the SAT and ACT this spring and to the widespread disruption at high schools in California and nationwide during the health crisis. However, UC officials emphasized that the dropping of standardized tests for this upcoming year does not imply a permanent change and said the UC, which has nine undergraduate campuses, will continue to debate that contentious matter in the future.

The one-year change about testing “is intended to reassure students and families who have to make decisions in the coming weeks about fall 2021 applications, and is consistent with actions taken by other colleges and universities. It is intended as an accommodation and not a permanent policy shift, and does not foreclose future (UC Regents) Board policy actions with respect to the use of standardized tests in University admissions for fall 2022 applicants and beyond,” a university policy statement approved by the UC regents said.

Critics of standardized testing hope the steps could be a trial run for a more permanent end to the use of SAT and ACT scores in admissions. The UC regents were expected in May to vote on whether to keep the tests as requirements, drop them or possibly reduce their weight in admissions decisions.

Students applying for fall 2021 can still take tests and send scores to UC if they are able. Doing so can support their UC eligibility and help fulfill some university graduation requirements. But campuses must ensure that “no student is harmed in admissions selection should they not submit a test score,” according to the UC statement.

Regarding the ongoing re-assessment of the use of SAT/ACT by UC, several members of the body that will ultimately decide the system's admissions policy recently expressed concerns about continued use of the exams in admissions practices.

[Excerpts from the LA Times article linked above follow:]

Several University of California regents expressed deep skepticism Thursday about the use of SAT and ACT tests in admissions decisions, signaling the standardized exams may be headed for elimination as an application requirement.

Regents, meeting remotely because of the coronavirus outbreak, honed in on the test’s impact on underserved students. Opponents of the tests argue that it discriminates on the basis of race, income and parent education levels.

In their first substantive discussion of the testing issue since UC President Janet Napolitano asked faculty leaders to review it in 2018, regents also sought to understand the history and role of the exams in the university system.

“A system designed to oppress does the thing that it is designed to do,” Regent Laphonza Butler said. “And if we are thinking about how we move forward, the freedom associated with the unburdening of California incredibly important.”

Regents will not vote on whether to keep or drop the tests until at least May. But powerful forces on both sides, including testing industry officials and civil rights activists, are scrambling to influence the decision. The enormous stakes were not lost on the regents, whose actions will play an outsized role in the future of standardized testing in America because of the public research university system’s size, stature and influence.

“Among all the many issues that come before the board, I would rank this at the very top,” Napolitano told regents Thursday.

The UC system, by adopting a SAT testing requirement for admissions a half-century ago, propelled what had been an assessment mainly used by smaller East Coast campuses into a place of national prominence. Four-fifths of UC’s 172,000 freshmen applicants submit SAT scores, making the university system the largest customer of the College Board, which owns the test.

“In many ways, the University of California is the history maker in this area,” said Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley.

Regent Richard Leib expressed concern about unequal access to test prep and asked UC officials to provide research about it at the May meeting. He said his own children hit higher scores on their second attempts after undertaking test prep and practice tests.

“It makes it very difficult for me to support using this tool when there’s such a disparity there,” Leib said.

Oregon’s 8 public universities (including the University of Oregon) have announced that they will be adopting a test optional policy on a permanent basis.


High schoolers applying to Oregon’s public universities won’t need to submit their SAT or ACT scores anymore.

The state’s largest universities on Wednesday announced they’re joining a growing movement among institutions of higher education giving prospective freshmen the option of omitting standardized test scores from their applications. More than 1,000 four-year universities have already dropped the requirement, according to a news release.

“Standardized tests add very little to our ability to predict an individual student’s success at a university or college,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, OSU vice provost for enrollment management.

Oregon universities in their joint announcement said research showing strong ties between family income and student performance on standardized tests like the SAT and ACT played a factor in their decision. Some university systems have long had policies that cleared in-state applicants at the top of their graduating class for automatic admission and waiving the standardized testing requirement.

Robert Schaeffer, interim director at the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, said Oregon’s move was the broadest of its kind.

“We’ve certainly been keeping our eye on Oregon State and the University of Oregon, in particular,” he said.

Still, Oregon universities’ move away from making standardized test scores compulsory in their applications doesn’t mean admissions officials will outright refuse to accept them.

In another article covering the Oregon announcement, an expanded quote from Jon Boeckenstedt is offered:


“Standardized tests add very little to our ability to predict an individual student’s success at a university or college,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, vice provost for enrollment management at Oregon State University. “I have seen clear patterns that – when weighted heavily in the admissions process – standardized tests provide admissions advantages to students who are already advantaged, including students from higher income families. Some believe standardized test scores are merely a reflection of accumulated social capital, rather than an objective measure of a student’s academic ability or potential.”

Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed has written an article that details many of the recent test optional announcements.


Colleges are dropping the SAT or ACT for admissions, they are waiving fees and they are extending deadlines. These are some of the ways admissions officials are responding to the coronavirus -- and they're just getting started in what is likely to be an unprecedented and potentially difficult spring.

At least 17 colleges have dropped the SAT or ACT in recent weeks for one or two admissions cycles, specifically citing the impact of COVID-19.

Boston University announced that it will go test optional for those applying in the fall of 2021 or the spring of 2022, but only those two semesters. BU cited the difficulty students have in taking the SAT or ACT.

“This is a one-year adoption of the policy,” said Kelly Walter, associate vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions. “But we will review it next spring. We are responding to the shifting landscape, with juniors in high school not able to access testing, and we wanted to be flexible.”

Tufts University is among the selective colleges waiving SAT/ACT requirements for applicants to the fall 2021 freshman class, as Bloomberg News reports.


Tufts University hadn’t been planning to drop its standardized testing requirement for college admissions. Then the coronavirus pandemic upended life for the anxious high school students working to get there.

Tufts and other colleges have now announced that they won’t require SAT or ACT scores from this year’s high school juniors to be considered for admission in fall 2021. A few even waived testing for this year’s seniors. That’s life-changing for some applicants, and it could change the makeup of the next generation of college students.

About a dozen colleges eliminated such scores in the past week alone, according to FairTest, a nonprofit advocacy group that has led the “test optional” movement for 30 years.

“This could be the death knell of admissions testing,” said Chris Falcinelli, founder of Focus Educational Services, a private tutoring firm in Brooklyn. “It’s something we were adjusting to over time and might be thrust upon us all at once.”

Joseph “JT” Duck, dean of admissions for Tufts School of Arts and Sciences and its engineering school, said the rapid pace at which high school students were thrown into uncertainty prompted the decision.

Both ACT and the College Board, which administers the SAT, have canceled their tests until June, meaning some juniors could have trouble taking, or retaking the test before applying in the fall.

If more testing dates are canceled, it’s unclear how the companies could handle that demand, said Jon Boeckenstedt, vice provost of enrollment management at Oregon State University. The school also dropped the test last week, but had been discussing the idea since last fall.

“The bigger issue is whether they could go ‘test optional’ for a single year and then go back,” Boeckenstedt said. “That would seem unfair at best.”

Boston University and Case Western Reserve said they will scrap the admission tests for this year’s juniors, and Tufts said it will look at a no-testing policy as a three-year pilot.

“As some institutions make temporary adjustments to their admission criteria to mitigate Covid-19 impact on applications and enrollment, we’re reminding students and colleges that ACT scores continue to benefit them both,” said ACT spokesman Ed Colby.

Davidson College (ranked no. 17 among National Liberal Arts Colleges by US News) has announced the adoption of a 3-year pilot test optional admissions policy. Chris Gruber, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, addressed the initiation of the new policy in a message on the college's website:


Beginning today, Davidson College’s admission process will be test-optional, giving students the option of including your scores from the SAT or ACT, if you choose.

This is a three-year pilot program that will begin with students who apply for the Class of 2025. After three years, we will decide whether to extend the policy indefinitely or, again, require applicants to submit test results.

A test-optional policy at this time speaks to Davidson’s commitment to access and reflects our approach that, while tests provide some useful information, other aspects of an applicant’s academic journey better reflect how they will perform and thrive here. This step hopefully provides answers, relief, and clarity to the high school students, their families, counselors, and mentors facing this crisis.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has announced that it is dropping its requirement for SAT II subject tests, and will not consider such scores if submitted.


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology no longer plans to consider SAT subject scores in admissions, starting with the class that will enroll in fall 2021. MIT is the last college to require the tests for all applicants.

Not only will MIT not require applicants to take the exams, as it has done, but it will not consider the scores of students who submit them.

Stu Schmill, dean of admissions and student financial services at MIT, made the announcement Friday.

"We made this decision after considerable study, in consultation with our faculty policy committee. We believe this decision will improve access for students applying to MIT," said Schmill.

As far as those who have already taken the tests, Schmill said MIT would not look at the results. "In fairness to all applicants, we won’t consider them for anyone. We think it would be unfair to consider scores only from those who have scored well and therefore choose to send them to us. They are neither recommended nor optional; they are simply not a part of our process anymore," he said.

MIT will still require students to take either the SAT or the ACT.

The fact that the SAT II scores will not even be considered by MIT is notable. Currently, many selective colleges and universities "recommend" the submission of such scores, but many college admissions consultants state that SAT II scores are expected from students from affluent families and high-achieving high schools. It will be interesting to see if MIT's wholesale abandonment of the exams will lead other selective colleges to follow suit.