Why Many US Universities Are No Longer Considering SAT/ACT Scores as an Admission Requirement

By Subhashri Roy Updated On - Jul 20, 2021 05:49 PM

Over 1,200 US institutions have gone test-optional amid the pandemic, with students across the world wondering why so many universities are doing so. Experts say that the Covid-19 pandemic has only expedited the movement and that a number of other factors associated with it.

A growing number of US universities and colleges are abandoning the standardised testing requirements for their upcoming admission intakes, making it easier for international students to pursue their studies amid the Covid-19 pandemic. While the tally keeps increasing, some universities plan on doing so on a temporary basis and some want to forgo the tests completely.

What started in 1969 when Bowdoin College started the practice of making test scores optional is now a movement which includes over 1,200 US institutions. US admissions experts are of the opinion that the pandemic only hastened the test-optional movement. Around 50 US institutions let good go of the use of SAT and ACT scores between 2018 and 2019, according to data released by FairTest.

The data also revealed that as of today, nearly two-thirds of US institutions have not asked for standardized test scores for the Fall 2021 admissions cycle. That brings us to one question - “Why are many US universities dropping their SAT and ACT admissions requirements?”

Test-Optional, Test-Blind, Test-Flexible Colleges - What’s the Difference?

Before we get to the big question, here’s what we need to know what test-optional, test-blind, test-flexible colleges actually mean.

Test-Optional: Simply put, test-optional colleges allow students to decide whether or not they wish to appear and send SAT and ACT scores.These colleges will consider their scores for admission but those submitting standardized test scores will not be given priority over those not doing so.

Test-Blind: Colleges who have gone test blind will not consider an applicant’s ACT or SAT scores for their admission evaluation even if they submit it.

Test-Flexible: A test-flexible college allows students to submit scores of other tests instead of the SAT or ACT such as an International Baccalaureate exam, one or more SAT Subject Tests or an Advanced Placement test.

Is Your Dream University Accepting SAT or ACT Scores?

Also Read: SAT vs. ACT: What is the Difference & Which One is Right For You?

Reasons Why Many US Universities are Dropping their SAT and ACT Admissions Requirement

College Board data show that nearly 2.2 million high school graduates took the SAT in 2019, up from 2.1 million in 2018 and over 1.7 million students took the ACT in 2019, a drop from 1.9 million in 2018. Even so, thousands of US universities now have chosen not to review ACT/SAT scores for admissions to undergraduate studies. Let us find out why:

COVID-19 Pandemic:

With the onset of the global pandemic, students across the world no longer had access to test prep or time to study for standardised tests. In December, some 124,000 students were unable to take the SAT because of closures due to the pandemic. Universities in the US, with the health and safety of applicants in mind, decided to go test-optional in order to provide flexibility to students and accommodate them amid such unprecedented times. Canceled testing dates in the spring and summer made it impossible for students to take exams in time for Fall of 2021 admissions. In addition, tests cancelled and closure of testing centres put students in a quandary with uncertainty even for the upcoming year.

Racial and Economic Biases: 

Chief complaints filed by testing critics hold that these standardised tests are racially biased and put wealthy students at an advantage. According to a 2019 lawsuit, standardised testing is biased against the poor and mainly Hispanic and Black students. Data show that in 2018, combined scores for White and Asian students averaged 1100+, while other groups averaged below 1000. With regard to income, an analysis conducted in 2015 found that students with family income above $200,000 scored highest while those with family income less than $20,000 scored lowest. Critics are of the view that if universities stop reviewing ACT/SAT scores, it would correct inequities faced by students from these backgrounds.

Increase in Enrollment and Overall Applications: 

As per data collected from 28 institutions in the US, a study found that test-optional colleges witnessed an increase in overall applications. When the University of New England went test-optional in 2019, it recorded the highest number of enrollments in its history with a 13% increase from the previous year. The Washington Post reported that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had seen 66% more applicants in 2021 than in 2020, while UCLA received 28% more.

Impact on Rankings:

An increased number of applicants lead to a lower acceptance rate, which further results in a higher ranking. Also, only applicants with high scores in ACT and/or SAT would report the scores, which will inflate the average test scores for the schools. 


Critics often argue that standardized testing does not ensure fair enrolment and equal opportunity. Dropping SAT and ACT scores would not just be reliable in identifying students who have potential to succeed but would also ensure more fairness to all applicants. If a student has a good academic record in high school, they might not have to submit their SAT or ACT scores to stand out.

Impact on Diversity: 

A new research, based on simulations using real student applications at competitive institutions, found that dropping the requirement would lead to considerable gains in the percentage of Latino and black students and other racially and ethnically underrepresented groups as well as economically disadvantaged students. The gains are higher for those that have decided to drop the requirement entirely, as opposed to those that have gone test-optional.

A Poor Predictor of College Success:

Students often tend to believe SAT and ACT scores are the deciding factors in an undergraduate admissions decision. However, they are only one aspect of their application, apart from grades earned in high school, community involvement, participation in sports and extracurricular activities and so on. Education experts believe that the most significant predictor of academic success in undergraduate studies is a student’s high school performance.

In fact, standardized tests provide very little incremental value beyond a student's high school GPA. A study also revealed that going SAT and ACT optional would lead to classes for students with higher GPAs and dropping the test entirely would result in higher levels of achievement in college. 

Also Read: Application Deadlines 2021-2022 for Popular US Universities

List of US Universities That Have Dropped SAT and ACT Admissions Requirements

Given below is the list of some of the universities in the US that have gone test-optional, -flexible or -blind:



Adelphi University

Test-Optional for 2022

Albertus Magnus College

Test-Optional permanently

American University

Test-Optional permanently

Agnes Scott College

Test-Optional permanently

Arizona State University-Tempe

Test-Optional permanently

Baylor University

Test-Optional for 2022, 2023

Bradley University

Test-Optional permanently

California Institute of Technology

Test-Blind for 2022

Case Western Reserve University

Test-Optional for 2022, 2023

Coastal Carolina University

Test-Flexible permanently (must have 3.5+ GPA)

Columbia University

Test-Optional for 2022

Cornell University

Test-Optional for 2022

DePaul University

Test-Optional permanently

Emory University

Test-Optional for 2022

Fordham University

Test-Optional for 2022

Hofstra University

Test-Optional permanently

Loyola University New Orleans

Test-Blind permanently

Michigan State University

Test-Optional permanently

Northwestern University

Test-Optional for 2022

Oregon State University

Test-Optional permanently

Rice University

Test-Optional for 2022

Seton Hill University

Test-Flexible permanently (must have 2.7+ GPA)

Texas A&M University-College Station

Test-Optional for 2022

University of Dayton

Test-Optional permanently

University of Massachusetts-Boston

Test-Optional permanently

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Test-Flexible permanently (must have 3.0+ GPA or rank in top half of class)

University of Oregon

Test-Optional permanently

University of Utah

Test-Optional for 2022

Yale University

Test-Optional for 2022

William and Mary

Test-Optional for 2022, 2023

Wake Forest University

Test-Optional permanently

University of New England

Test-Blind permanently

University of California system

Test-Optional (Possibly Test-Blind, Pending Litigation) for 2022, then Test-Blind for 2023, 2024

Stanford University

Test-Optional for 2022

Also Read: Timeline for September 2022 Intake to Study in US

A research by ACT Inc, administrator of ACT, showed that many schools will continue with their test-optional policy even after the Covid-19 pandemic comes to an end. Also, as mentioned, dropping SAT and ACT testing as admissions criteria has long been in the picture and they have also drawn quite the criticism for promoting bias and so on. However, the College Board has announced that it will take measures to make the SAT more flexible.

Have Further Queries Regarding SAT and ACT Score Requirement?

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