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Reversing “Test-Optional” Policies: US Universities Bring Back the GRE/GMAT/SAT Requirement

Reversing “Test-Optional” Policies: US Universities Bring Back the GRE/GMAT/SAT Requirement

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To take the SAT or not to take the SAT, that is the question.” – Hamlet

Or at least it was the question, for four years. But now, more and more colleges are bringing back the GRE/GMAT/SAT requirement. Read on to find out why.

In this Blog:

Why Were “Test-Optional” Policies Introduced in US Universities?

The COVID-19 pandemic gave way to many new changes in our world. It led to technological advancements and necessitated our adaptation to a new kind of life. It also brought with it a slew of difficulties and accessibility issues for many people across the globe. In an effort to ease these challenges, most colleges and universities in the United States made changes to their standardised test score submission policies. Originally, SAT, GRE, and GMAT scores had to be mandatorily submitted along with your application. But as the pandemic took over, colleges and US universities introduced the “test-optional” policy, according to which the applicant had a choice regarding whether or not to submit standardised test scores. (This excludes English Language Proficiency test scores, such as the TOEFL or IELTS, which have always been–and continue to be–compulsory for international students and non-native English speakers.) Many universities even resorted to completely waiving the requirement. But now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has mostly receded, and the world has found itself in a post-pandemic reality, US universities have been doing away with their respective “test-optional” policies.

Read: What is the difference between SAT test-optional and test blind? – Jamboree

Did Removing the GRE, GMAT, and SAT Requirement Work in Favour of US Universities and Applicants?

While waiving the GRE/GMAT/SAT requirement may have been better for students – after all, it was one less thing to worry about, and students could accordingly allot more time to polishing other aspects of their application – the move has not been hailed as being in the best interest of many US universities. Waiving the standardised test score requirement may have played a part in diversifying applicant pools owing to its role in making applications cheaper and more accessible, but ultimately, gauging an applicant’s academic strengths in relation to their peers was impossible without it.

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Which US Universities Have Brought Back the GRE/GMAT/SAT Requirement?

Brown University is the latest Ivy League university to reverse its “test-optional” policy, joining the list of names such as Yale, Dartmouth, and the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Other universities that have made standardised test scores a mandatory component of college applications include the University of Texas at Austin and Purdue University. Why are US universities doing this? Let’s take a closer look:

Why Are US Universities Discarding Their “Test-Optional” Policies?

All of the above universities have attributed their decision to reinstate the standardised test requirements primarily to the fact that these scores are vital in assessing an applicant’s ability to keep up with advanced academic standards in general and the university curriculum in particular:

“Our analysis made clear that SAT and ACT scores are among the key indicators that help predict a student’s ability to succeed and thrive in Brown’s demanding academic environment.” – Brown University

“Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT.” – MIT

“Our overall conclusion is that SAT and ACT scores are a key method by which Dartmouth can identify students who will succeed at Dartmouth, including high performing students…who may attend a high school for which Dartmouth has less information to (fully) judge the transcript.” – Dartmouth College

“Yale’s research from before and after the pandemic has consistently demonstrated that, among all application components, test scores are the single greatest predictor of a student’s future Yale grades.” – Yale University

“Our goals are to attract the best and brightest students and to make sure every student is successful once they are here. Standardized scores combined with high school GPA support this goal by improving early identification of students who demonstrated the greatest academic achievement, the most potential, and those who can most benefit from support through our student success programs.” – UT Austin

“The evidence is clear that test scores provide essential information in a comprehensive admissions evaluation that enables us to ensure the optimal chance of success for each admitted student.” – Purdue University

Read: GRE in a Post-Pandemic World: How Test Delivery and Admission Policies Have Changed – Jamboree

“Test-Optional” Policies: Is There More to the Story?


It wasn’t just COVID-19 that prompted this change–the prevailing standardised test score requirement has been under fire for nearly two decades now. While a global pandemic may have exacerbated things, the mandatory GRE/GMAT/SAT requirement has been scrutinised by many over the years for being allegedly discriminatory against certain races, and students coming from low-income backgrounds. Accordingly, at the time, some US universities had announced that they had permanently switched to the “test-optional” model, while many maintained that it was a temporary solution.

However, the aforementioned US universities that have brought back the standardised score requirement, have addressed these socioeconomic concerns, claiming that the reversal of the policy is actually beneficial to students coming from various backgrounds. According to them, the test-optional policy effectively takes the standardised test score metric out of college applications, diverting focus to other aspects such as co-curricular achievements and professional experience. This is where those coming from low-income backgrounds face a challenge in the real world, thus contributing to their having, in some cases, weaker credentials than their peers. Standardised test scores are, after all, standardised, and are a common metric to judge applicants upon, hence removing the influence of external factors to a considerable extent. 

Are More US Universities Expected to Follow Suit?

Amid the decreasing popularity of the “test-optional” model, more universities are likely to join Brown, Dartmouth, Yale, MIT, UT Austin, and Purdue in bringing back the GRE/GMAT/SAT requirement.

Keep an eye out for news on the matter, and stay tuned for the latest info on the testing policies of US Universities!

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