UC News & Who Benefits from Test Optional?

Recent News—University of California Schools announced May 21, 2020, that they are going test optional for Fall 2020-2022 applicants, will adopt a test blind policy for Fall 2023-2024 applicants, and will be re-evaluating/possibly developing their own test for admissions beyond 2024. For now, these policy changes will only apply to Californian applicants.

What does this mean for you? If you are a California resident applying to a UC school, then you can decide whether or not to submit your ACT or SAT scores. Submitting good ACT or SAT scores can still benefit your application. If you have a low ACT or SAT score that would reflect poorly on you, then you can choose not to submit it.

Read the full UC press release here: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/university-california-board-regents-approves-changes-standardized-testing-requirement.


What does Test Optional mean? 

Test optional means that students are not required to send in their standardized test score (ACT or SAT) with their application. However, test optional schools will still consider your scores if you did take a test and admit them. See previous posts on Testing Optional Policies for additional info: “Perspectives on ACT/SAT Testing Optional Policies” & “Rumors Abound: ACT/SAT Testing-Optional Policies during COVID-19 Crisis.”

When looking at your school’s specific admissions requirements, it is important to make sure whether or not sending test scores is truly optional. If the school says the word “optional,” then it is indeed optional.  However, some schools will use the terminology “highly recommended” or “recommend” that a student turn in standardized test scores with their application. Recommend = send in those scores.

Not surprising, quite a few schools have decided to go test optional because of the COVID-19 crisis. 

It is important to note that TEST OPTIONAL does not mean the following: 

Test Blind: Test blind schools are schools that do not look at test scores at all.  They usually do not want you to even send them the scores.  Very few schools are test blind.  Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, is a test blind school (they do exist). 

Test Flexible: Test flexible schools are schools that require standardized tests for your admissions application but they are flexible with which one you send.  Students could send their AP Exam results, SAT Subject Test Scores, ACT/SAT, etc.  New York University (NYU) is a test flexible and test optional school. 

For an updated list of test optional universities/colleges check out: https://www.fairtest.org/university/optional 


Who Benefits from the Test Optional Policies? 


  1. Due to Covid-19, some test dates have been canceled, therefore, giving students less opportunities to take the usually required standardized tests.  Having a test optional admissions policy will allow more students to meet admissions requirements and will give these schools a larger pool of students to choose from.

  2. Test optional will allow more wiggle room to accept students! Sometimes test scores actually hurt a school’s ability to accept students they want/need.  For instance, if they need more students for a certain major or need a new violin player for the school orchestra, they will not have to worry about test scores hindering their ability to accept those students if they meet the other criteria. 

  3. The wiggle room will also include recruiting athletes or accepting legacies.  Not the pretty side of college admissions, but there are schools who thrive on their athletic department and donors (endowments).  Lower test scores could often be the crux that prevents schools from accepting athletes and legacies who would benefit their program. 

Lower Scoring Students

For students who do well in academics and have other various strengths/talents but cannot seem to do well on standardized tests, test optional could be beneficial for them as well. 

However, this will not benefit them when applying to all test optional schools. There will still be test optional schools that are deemed extremely competitive/selective, and students without test scores will still have to measure up to students who did admit them with their application. 

In the end, when applying for a college/university, all students will need to put their best foot forward. In some instances, standing out will require students to still take standardized tests. 

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