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MIT staff blogger Dean Stu Schmill '86

We are suspending our SAT/ACT requirement for the 2020–2021 application cycle by Stu Schmill '86

I am writing to announce that, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our office will be suspending our usual SAT/ACT testing requirement for the coming application cycle.01 This means both prospective first-year and transfer students who aspire to enter MIT in 2021.  

This was not a decision we made lightly. Our reliance on these tests is outcome-driven and applicant-oriented: we don’t value scores for their own sake, but only to the extent that they help us make better decisions for our students, which they do. We regularly research the outcomes of MIT students and our own admissions criteria to ensure we make good decisions for the right reasons, and we consistently find that considering performance on the SAT/ACT, particularly the math section, substantially improves the predictive validity of our decisions with respect to subsequent student success at the Institute. As such, we had hoped that the public health situation would improve such that taking the tests would be safe and accessible to everyone well in advance of the application deadline. 

Unfortunately, that seems unlikely to be the case. Last month, the College Board announced year-long disruptions to SAT administration and recommended that colleges show flexibility with their normal admissions requirements; last week, the ACT announced disruptions as well. In my last post, I affirmed that our longstanding policy of not penalizing students for disasters and disruptions applied generally to the cancellations of activities and exams due to COVID-19. As stated in our Making Caring Common pledge — and reaffirmed in the recent Care Counts in Crisis statement that I’ve signed — we believe that students should be community members first and applicants second, so we certainly can’t in good conscience ask our applicants to endanger their health or the health of the people around them by taking a test under potentially unsafe conditions. After much thought, we have concluded that our commitment to conducting college admissions in the public interest means that we have an ethical obligation to waive our typical testing requirements under these circumstances. 

Here is what our suspension means in simple terms: 

  • we will not require either the SAT or the ACT from first-year or transfer applicants applying this cycle. We expect this to be a one-year suspension of our usual requirements, but will continue to monitor the public health situation closely.  
  • students who have already taken the SAT/ACT are encouraged to send their scores with the understanding that they help us more accurately evaluate their preparedness for MIT, and with the knowledge that tests are only one factor among many in that process. 
  • students who have not already taken the SAT/ACT are discouraged from doing so if they cannot do so safely, and/or are under such strain that they cannot perform to a degree commensurate with their actual preparation.
  • students who do not submit SAT/ACT scores will not have any negative inferences drawn from their absence. Instead, we will make the best, most informed decision we can by assessing other academic aspects of their application like grades, curriculum, and other examinations.02 However, as </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">announced</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> earlier this year, we will </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">not</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> consider the SAT Subject Tests.  

In addition, we are introducing two other new testing policies that we believe will help improve access for our students. These policies will begin this cycle and will continue indefinitely (i.e., beyond when the pandemic ends):  

  • we are expanding the number of tests that can be used to demonstrate English proficiency.03 For non-native English speakers, we strongly recommend taking such a test if you have been using English for less than 5 years or do not speak English at home or in school. We believe this will help expand access for our international students. You can read the full list of English language tests we now accept here. Note that some of these tests, such as the Duolingo English Test, can be taken online to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, and we encourage students to pick whatever is the safest and most affordable option for them.   
  • we will no longer require applicants to officially send their SAT/ACT or English proficiency scores as part of their application. Instead, they can self-report their scores on the application, and we will verify these scores upon enrollment. We believe this will help reduce costs and processing delays for the majority of applicants. 

Our staff has updated our dedicated COVID-19 FAQs, and relevant static pages on our site, with this information. We will keep you informed, here and elsewhere, if and as there are more developments in our response to the pandemic. Until then, please continue to focus on you and yours, and know that we will be there to help you along the way. 

  1. This means both prospective first-year and transfer students who aspire to enter MIT in 2021. back to text
  2. However, as announced earlier this year, we will not consider the SAT Subject Tests. back to text
  3. For non-native English speakers, we strongly recommend taking such a test if you have been using English for less than 5 years or do not speak English at home or in school. back to text