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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

Testing requirements FAQ by Matt McGann '00

Some Q & A regarding testing for MIT admission.

There are always many questions about our testing requirements. For those of you applying this year and for whom English is your primary language, here is the official statement about what we require:

SAT Reasoning Test (“SAT 1”) or the ACT Plus Writing. In addition, we require two SAT Subject Tests (“SAT 2s”): one in math (Level 1 or Level 2) and one in science (Physics, Chemistry, or Biology E/M).

Since there are always even more questions, here is a quick FAQ to provide some more answers. I hope it is helpful to you.

Q. Do you prefer the SAT or the ACT?

A. We honestly have no preference. If you submit both, we will use whichever scores that make you look best.

Q. Which SAT Subject Tests should I take?

A. We do not have a preference. You should take the tests for which you’re best prepared and best suited. If you have taken more than one test in a category, we will use the test which makes you look best.

Q. I am an international student or a student whose primary language isn’t English. What are my testing options?

A. You have two options. You may do the SAT Reasoning Test or ACT Plus Writing and 2 SAT Subject Tests as above, or you may choose the second option for non-native English speakers:

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and two SAT Subject Tests, one in math (Level 1 or Level 2) and one in science (Physics, Chemistry, or Biology E/M).

Q. I am an international student, do I have to take the TOEFL?

A. No, we do not require the TOEFL for international students. However, you must submit one of the following: SAT Reasoning Test, ACT Plus Writing, or TOEFL, in addition to the required SAT Subject Tests.

Q. I am an international student. Should I take the TOEFL or the SAT?

A. You may take either or both. We will consider the TOEFL or SAT equally without preference. If you submit both, we will use the test that makes you look best.

Q. What score should I get on the TOEFL?

A. TOEFL is the one test for which we have minimum scores. They are: 577 (PBT), 233 (CBT) and 90 (iBT). You should aim to meet or exceed these target scores: 600 (PBT), 250 (CBT), 100 (iBT).

Q. By when must I take my exams?

A. If you are applying for Early Action, you must complete all of your tests by the November testing date (yes, these scores will reach us on time without rushing). If you are applying for Regular Action, complete your tests by the December testing date. We may accept January tests on a case-by-case basis.

Q. What are good scores?

A. There’s no real answer to this question, though you can inform yourself with the information presented on the Admissions Statistics page.

I hope this is helpful!

37 responses to “Testing requirements FAQ”

  1. Wings '11 says:

    Gosh, it’s so weird to think that we haven’t even started school yet, but the process is already starting up for this year’s high school seniors.

  2. Keri says:

    It doesn’t matter how many SAT subject tests you take. If you take – to use your example – math, physics, and chemistry, MIT will only take into consideration the math and the better science score.

  3. Wings '11 says:

    A note to the Class of 2012:
    My name’s Melissa, and I’ll be a freshman at MIT this fall. I just wanted to say something about testing: don’t use it to predict whether or not you’ll get in! My SAT Math score was decent, 10pts away from the average – and all my SAT IIs were lower than the average. Remember, the numbers given are the middle 50% – there are people with higher, but there are people with lower, too! From what I’ve seen, MIT uses your grades and test scores to determine if you have the capability – that is, a 760 doesn’t have an advantage over a 720. If your scores/grades show that you are capable of doing well, then they look at the other things – extracurriculars, taking advantage of what’s around you.

    And they’re not looking for people who have cured disease and solved world hunger. I, who had good grades and decent-but-not-amazing scores, am involved in community service and have a couple of other passions. Really, MIT people are normal (strange and smart, but not superheroes). Don’t think you have to be Super(wo)man to be a super applicant, k?

    So please, don’t worry as much as I did. What have you got to lose by applying (besides money… but that can be waived…)?

    And that was much longer than I intended it to be. Sorry =)

  4. Li Brunetto says:

    I am far from the ideal standardized test taker–my SAT I scores do not reflect my GPA and high school course load, and I am afraid that that will greatly hurt me in the admissions process. How important is the correlation between test scores and academic standing? Is GPA a more influential factor within the student profile?

  5. Paul '11 says:

    Hm…this time last year, I hadn’t even decided to apply to MIT. That didn’t happen until July, when I finally visited. And then I slowly but surely fell in love.

    On that note, for all you prospective students out there – I would strongly encourage you to forget about your SATs/ACTs/GPA/rank for a little bit and just come visit MIT. Take a tour, ask to visit a lab, wander through the Infinite Corridor, gape at Simmons Hall and the Stata Center, get lost in the tunnels – just go stand in Killian Court and look up at the Great Dome.

    If you want to know what MIT is really about, this site is invaluable. But I think nothing really compares to actually being on campus, checking out the buildings, walking through the halls, and – most importantly – talking to the students and the faculty.

    Last year, I was in the same place you were…a rising senior, trying to figure out this whole college thing. At that point, MIT was just a place I had heard and read about; and even though I had met a few people who were actually from MIT, it wasn’t “real” to me. It was only when I visited that I began to understand just what MIT is about. That was the moment that MIT became real for me.

    So what I’m trying to say is, if you have the time or the opportunity, forget about those looming essays and test scores and just come visit. Even if it’s just for a day, come and make MIT real. Make it yours.

  6. Vihang says:

    Thanks for the info.

  7. deb says:

    omgosh prepping already for next years seniors? WOW i cant believe it has been a year (at least) since i’ve started reading this blogs. time flies so quickly that its scary.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Does it matter how many SAT subject tests you take? For instance would someone who takes the physics, math and chemistry tests have an advantage over someone who takes only the physics and math tests?

  9. Hey Ken Mbeva, u really think u can get in to MIT? why is that? 2500 people think like that each year, 110 get accepted?

  10. Wings '11 says:

    A well-wisher, are you the same well-wisher from Melis’ blog about HIV? If so, why are you so inclined to put people down for trying to do something (like get into a school or try to cure a disease)?

  11. Ken Mbeva says:

    I am an international student,a ’12 hopeful.This info wouldn’t have come at a better time.Thanks alot everyone.

  12. batbaatar says:

    Thanks for information. GOODLUCK for all international applicants

  13. Utkarsh says:

    R the requirements same for transfer admission as well????????

  14. feder says:

    Is there a way i can know which is the average SAT score for the international students admitted?

  15. Kate says:

    Matt — I am so glad that you posted this! The information was very timely because I was wondering whether MIT required 2 or 3 SAT IIs…there seemed to be a bit of a discrepancy between the sources I checked. Of course, the admissions stats are always interesting to see, too. They are impressive and just a bit intimidating!

    On the other hand, thanks to Wings(Melissa) and Paul for posting your comments. They were very reassuring, because while I would love to go to MIT, I am definitely not superwoman! It’s good to see that there are REAL people behind the statistics. And I guess I should really look into visitng MIT in person! smile

  16. Ken Mbeva says:

    @ all aspiring applicants:don’t let the likes of ‘well wisher’ discourage you;its worth applying,whether you will make it in or not,than not making any effort to apply.

  17. intl '11 says:

    To all applicants, specially internationals:
    I never believed possible getting into MIT. I was afraid due to the stats, as a matter of fact. I got a 2000 on my SAT I, which was a reasonably decent but not incredible score, and I therefore believed that I would not get in. Scores DO matter, but it is your passion for other activities -besides school- what makes you a candidate for MIT. I believe that the Institvte looks for students capable of apporting something to the community, not for students who have perfect scores but do not have passion for something, a passion that will later be transferred into their studies, their carrers, and their contributions to other people. (it’s just my perception)

  18. parthi says:


    am a student from india……..i did my schooling from india…..but now …am a permanent resident in north carolina……….we don have grades in our schooling system…….but are given a score………………am not a big achiever in school but out side i done quite well in competetive exams…………..i went through the application components ..but they don have particulars for students who r permanent residents but did schooling out side the US…………wht should i do?

  19. Yuzhi says:

    This is kind of off topic, but approximately when will the Fall Recruitment Travel Schedule be available? I am in the San Jose Bay Area. Last year the schedule was posted on your blog just merely 5 days before the visit. That’s a fairly short notice. I want to plan my schedule ahead of time so I can make sure I attend it. I missed it last year, so I had to bear watching a few my of friends waving around their gray and red MIT pens for the whole year xP

    I took the Chemistry SAT 2 in June, would there be any point for me to take Physics test in November if I am applying for EA? Will you even look at it?

    You often say that students are considered in their context, but do you consider the more detailed circumstances of their context?
    For example, even though both of my parents received great education, but that was in China. They are not really able to help me educational wise as much as other parents who went to college in the United States.
    Also, I haven’t been living with both of my parents since 4th grade( been with dad from 7th – 12th grade) because the location of their work. Will it be considered that I have to prepare most of my meals (dad comes home around 9PM everyday) among with other things I have to take care of, I was not able to use ALL my resources available to me because of transportation issues, and that I did not attend the fancy camps people go to so I can stay and spend time with my mother in the summer?
    Should I include that in my application? If so, where? I know it sounds whiny, but I feel that it should be considered,

    Sorry, last question!
    For the long essays of the application, is it better to show how we are a good fit for MIT, or show our Passion?
    500 word isn’t long, and it’s hard to include all my interests AND specific examples of things I’ve done that shows I am a good fit for MIT.

  20. Vytautas says:

    Hey all, thanks Matt for useful post and others for useful comments smile
    I know that test scores don’t mean too much when applying to MIT, but maybe that’s only for American citizens? How about international applicants?
    Oh, and one more question for Matt: I took my SAT subject tests on June 2 and chose MIT as one of the schools to send the results. Won’t it be missed when it reaches MIT, since the application forms are coming only in August.

  21. Paul '11 says:

    @ Everybody: Hey guys, it’s great to see you are all so interested in coming to MIT. If you have specific questions for Matt (or anyone else in the admissions office), the blogs are great, but definitely shoot them an e-mail as well. The general admissions e-mail is (shockingly): admissions [at] mit [dot] edu. If you search around you will also be able to find Matt’s e-mail address. Make sure to include a clear, concise subject.

    If worst comes to worst, you can also just call – though I realize this may be harder for international applicants. I had to call them last year about some missing SAT scores, and they were very helpful and friendly.

    @ feder: I believe the scores Admissions Statistics page are the average of all applicants, both domestic and international. (I say this because the total number of SAT scores included is greater than the number of domestic applicants.) I do not know if the average of just the international applicants is available. Seriously, though, I would not get hung up on test scores…they are important, certainly, but they are not the only thing.

    @ Vytautas: Sending your SAT II’s to MIT was a great choice. I can assure you that the scores will arrive in plenty of time, and they should magically end up in your proper file once you apply. Either way, the MyMIT system is very good at keeping track of what scores have been received and which have not. (That’s how I knew there was a minor problem with mine last year.)

    @ Yuzhi: Taking Physics in November should be fine even for EA (one of Matt’s questions was about this). Again, if you have any concerns later on about whether or not the scores were received, a quick call should remedy the problem. Finally, if you feel you will do well, I would certainly encourage you to take the exam.

    Still @ Yuzhi: Your question – “For the long essays of the application, is it better to show how we are a good fit for MIT, or show our Passion?” – is an interesting one…and also a troubling one. The long essays are not primarily about how you (think you) “fit MIT” nor about your “Passion.” They are primarily about you. You should not try and use your essays as an opportunity to “prove” that you belong at MIT or that you have a passion for research or whatever. Those things cannot be proven.

    Let me say it again – the essays are, first and foremost, about you. Where you come from, what matters to you, some of the things that have happened to you in the past. Out of all the colleges I applied to, I found that MIT’s essays are some of the best. Yes, the things you have done matter, and there will be essays where you should feel free to “brag.” Certainly, you can talk about your passion and your interests. But who you are, your personality, how you’ve coped with challenges, how you’ve taken advantage of the opportunities and resources given to you – in my mind, those are the things that really matter; those are things that should come through on a good application.

    @ Ken: You must be a U.S. citizen or a Permanent Resident to apply Early Action to MIT, so I’m sorry to say I don’t think you’re eligible.

    @ Ronny: As I mentioned above, be very careful about thinking you “are perfectly fitting MIT.” Although I’m sure you have done some great things, just remember that what really defines MIT is a little harder to pin down than you might think. smile As for your other question – considering that MIT is not really known for producing great athletes…I think you’re okay. wink However, one of the short answer questions on the application (usually) asks about what you do for fun, so you could definitely mention your love of sports that way.

    By the way, I’m sorry if I’m setting myself as some kind of expert or MIT prophet. I’m not – I’m speaking from my own experiences with applying, with being around these blogs, with hearing Matt and others talk about the application, and so on. Moreover, I am not Matt. (Good thing too. I’m not sure I could handle his job. :D)

    So while I like to think what I say is mostly accurate, take it with a little grain of salt, and always get a second opinion. After all, this site is an entire community – it’s not just one or two people. And everyone is always willing to help if you just ask nicely. smile

  22. Paul '11 says:

    …Good God. You know you’re long-winded when your comment is longer than the original post! Sorry everybody. smile

  23. Ken Mbeva says:

    Thanks alot Paul!

  24. I second Melissa(Wings) and intl’11 in their comments smile

  25. Vytautas says:

    Yeah Paul, real thanks. Hope to meet you at MIT and thank personally smile

  26. Ken Mbeva says:

    As an international student,am I eligible for early action application?If yes,what are the conditions for applying to other institutions?

  27. Ronny CHEN says:

    Hello everyone! It seems that “test” is a forever a hot topic. People have been saying that the scores DO matter but DON’T mean everything. But how about … me?

    I’m quite confident that I am gonna get good scores on each of the test. And I’m 100% sure that my out-of-school experiences and passions are perfectly fitting MIT. The problem is: I haven’t gotten anything (like prizes) of sports!

    I mean I’m pretty good at sports. I really enjoy basketball and surfing etc. But I haven’t been in a formal competition, and I can’t get any certificates to prove that I do well in sports.

    Desperately, what can I do?

  28. I took the SAT the summer after my freshman year and got scores in the 700s. Will the age of my scores be a problem or should I take the SAT again?

  29. Abhi Bhatia says:

    I am an Indian student and we know very little about MIT. Please tell me about the courses offered in engineering for undergraduate and how can i apply for the admission and the test as early as possible.

  30. Ronny CHEN says:

    Thanks a million, Paul. Though I know that you’re not Matt, nor so-called “expert”, your passions and willingness to help people are still touching my heart! And your advise is gonna be so helpful.

  31. siddhartha says:


    i am a student from india, and will be giving sat in october..i wanna do b.e in computer science. i wanna know about the min. sat score u consider for admission..

    and is a very good score is sufficient for admission…

  32. Lola says:

    hi … i attended a talk by MIT alumni some time ago and they tounched on the credentials of a few students who were admitted … by their standards, it kinda struck me that i’m pretty average considering i’ve done nothing as amazing as what they’ve done (quite a blow to my self-esteem really =P) …
    so, just a question out of the blue, would MIT accept people with potential (which i’d like to believe i have) even if they’ve done nothing monumental to their credit yet?

  33. Mayuresh says:

    I am engineering student from India.I want to take admission to Masters or Phd program in electrical engineering at MIT.kindly tell me about average GPA and other requirments.
    [email protected]

  34. Prabhat says:

    i am just another high school senior (going to be in fall) wanting to go to MIT. However my SAT score is very very bad. it is 1630. i am gonna take it again and hope for 2200. in addition, i do not have any extra activities. no sports and no music. i am into a lot of volunteering right now. my class rank is 3 and i have a good GPA. i can get good recommendation letters. what are my chances for MIT. help matt…