Understanding the UC’s Elimination of the SAT/ACT Requirement

Published Wednesday, June 3, 2020 by Briant Sarris

Before you prematurely shred your SAT/ACT prep books in celebration, there are a few things you should know about this decision and its consequences for you. 

2021-2022 Admissions will be Test-Optional

Optional is just another word for unnecessary, right? Not exactly. For many students, this change will mean just business as usual. 

Test-optional means that for both the high school graduating classes of 2021 and 2022, the SAT/ACT are no longer required for college admissions, but submitted scores are still looked at and considered during the admissions process. SAT/ACT scores that you do submit are value added to your application. This means that preparing for and taking the exam can still be beneficial for your UC application. Think of your AP test scores. They’re not required, but we still endure through late nights of studying and hours-long exams in the hope that admissions will notice us. The exam becomes more important for your application the more competitive the major to which you are applying. Additionally, your SAT/ACT scores can be used for awarding scholarships, course placement once you enroll in the university, and statewide eligibility for admissions guarantee. The SAT essay and the ACT writing portion requirement will also be eliminated at this point. 

2023-2024 Admissions will be Test-Blind

Here’s where things get shaken up a bit. 

Test-blind means that SAT/ACT scores of students applying for either 2023 or 2024 admission will not be taken into account or even seen in the UC’s admissions decisions. Therefore, all other aspects of your application become that much more important; I’m talking about GPA, extracurricular activities, and personal essays. 

HOWEVER (you’re going to want to pay attention for this part), students can still submit their scores to be used for scholarships, course placement once you enroll in the university, and statewide eligibility for admissions guarantee, as in previous years. Therefore, submitting their score is in a student’s best interest to help them receive maximum financial aid and also to skip certain introductory courses so that students can finish college requirements more quickly and also have more time to take cool electives like the “creative writing” or even “synchronized swimming,” while staying on track for a four year graduation (or even graduating early!). 

It should also be noted that during the entire 2021-2024 time frame, SAT subjects test scores will still be taken into account, and are crucial for students applying to more competitive majors.

2025 and Beyond 

All students currently in high school will graduate in the next four years, so this will not apply to you, but it is just good to know. If the UC has created a new test by 2025, it will be used for admissions, scholarships, post-enrollment course placement, and statewide eligibility for admissions guarantee. If there is no new test by then, the UC system will then remove completely the standardized testing portion of admissions. While it is possible, it is also very likely that a new test will not be designed, tested, and ready to be administered on a large scale by 2025, and may take a few more years past that.

So, what was going through their heads?

Now that you know WHAT this decision means, you may be wondering WHY this decision was made. Well, first off for class of 2021, the UCs wanted to make the test optional for admissions in order to account for consequences of COVID-19. Then, the UCs made the decision to extend the test-optional, move to test-blind, observe the effects of these changes on admissions, and transition away from the SAT and ACT all together. It is their goal to create a test that accurately and fairly reflects the knowledge of students and their preparedness for entering a university of California. Perhaps if they design and administer this new exam successfully in the coming years it will be adopted by other universities, but only time will tell.    

 The Bottom Line

Because all current high school students will be applying to college in the next four years, it is important that you still incorporate the SAT/ACT into your college preparation plan in order to give yourself an edge. Additionally, we at Excel believe that an objective measure of preparedness for college is necessary to create some predictability and stability in the college interest. It is our hope that with a better understanding of the implications of the UC’s decision, and the implications of submitting applications without exams, students are able to prepare adequately for their exams and for their college applications. 


Written by ExcelTest English and Writing teacher Madison Mead.

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