MIT reinstates ACT/SAT test requirement

For 2023 grads:


Good for them.


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. We believe a requirement is more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy.

Any predictions on whether MIT will be an outlier here, or a bellwether? Or something in between, where students constantly need to be reminded to check application requirements for every college?

Some interesting bits:

  • our ability to accurately predict student academic success at MIT⁠02 is significantly improved by considering standardized testing — especially in mathematics — alongside other factors
  • some standardized exams besides the SAT/ACT can help us evaluate readiness, but access to these other exams is generally more socioeconomically restricted⁠03 relative to the SAT/ACT
  • as a result, not having SATs/ACT scores to consider tends to raise socioeconomic barriers to demonstrating readiness for our education,⁠04 Although our analysis is specific to MIT, our findings directionally align with a major study conducted by the University of California’s Standardized Testing Task Force, which found that including SAT/ACT scores predicted undergraduate performance better than grades alone, and also helped admissions officers identify well-prepared students from less-advantaged backgrounds. It is also consistent with independent research compiled by education researcher Susan Dynarski that shows standardized testing can be an effective way to identify talented disadvantaged students who would otherwise go unrecognized. Of course, there may be institutions for whom this research does not hold true, but the findings are very robust for MIT, and have been for many, many years.relative to having them, given these other inequalities

Our research can’t explain why these tests are so predictive of academic preparedness for MIT, but we believe it is likely related to the centrality of mathematics — and mathematics examinations — in our education.

despite what some people infer from our statistics, we do not consider an applicant’s scores at all beyond the point where preparedness has been established as part of a multifactor analysis. Nor are strong scores themselves sufficient: our research shows students also need to do well in high school and have a strong match for MIT, including the resilience to rebound from its challenges, and the initiative to make use of its resources.

At the same time, standardized tests also help us identify academically prepared, socioeconomically disadvantaged students who could not otherwise demonstrate readiness⁠10 because they do not attend schools that offer advanced coursework, cannot afford expensive enrichment opportunities, cannot expect lengthy letters of recommendation from their overburdened teachers, or are otherwise hampered by educational inequalities.⁠11 By using the tests as a tool⁠12 in the service of our mission, we have helped improve the diversity of our undergraduate population⁠13 while student academic outcomes at MIT have gotten better,⁠14 too; our strategic and purposeful use of testing has been crucial to doing both simultaneously.⁠15


I don’t think anyone will care beyond the 33,000-35,000 people that will apply to MIT each year.


Perhaps if they are doing it, other elite schools might follow - is probably more the point.

There’s no way to know.

Some have said permanent (or already were) and some have said through x year - like 2025.

But some like UGA went back already and some like the Florida publics never went there…even when you couldn’t take a test.


Standardized testing as a metric benefits high SES students and strong test takers. Those scores don’t necessarily demonstrate the aptitude/intelligence of the student.

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Not disagreeing. My kids had tutoring and both saw increases from the high 20s to one going up 6 and one 4.

Just pointing out the impact of MIT doing it - might be others follow - might not. But certainly other elite schools will study the move if nothing else.

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Standardized examinations of a subject with objective right and wrong answers predict future performance on standardized examinations of that same subject – not a surprise.

It makes sense that schools with a traditional, exam-focused academic structure would hold onto a traditional, exam-focused test as part of the admissions process. On the flip side, schools that put less weight on traditional exams (or on mathematics, for that matter) probably have less motivation to keep using the SAT/ACT. I expect the first category of schools to generally follow MIT, and the second category to stay test-optional or even go test-blind – like Pitzer has.

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I think the SAT/ACT score would be more useful if the schools required all the scores for the student. One of the benefits that I noticed after joining CC is that kids of means take the test multiple times. At our schools the majority of kids are only taking the SAT (none the ACT) once when the school administers the test for free.

Maybe if the see that student A got a 1500+ score, but took the SAT and ACT multiple times, that will help them put student’s B 1450 from one sitting in a better light.


That is a very interesting development. I do think the most important thing (besides for those applying to MIT) is whether it’s a harbinger of things to come.

No way for me to know, but I think other “top schools” might follow MIT.


I expect most schools to reinstate testing requirements. UCs are likely the outliers.


Time to start speculating what is the level of preparedness.

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What evidence the AOs get does “necessarily demonstrate” the aptitude/intelligence of the student? Because if the rest are worse, these scores might still be a good option.


Since a test optional policy increases both the number of applications, as well as the admitted test scores, I see no reason why many schools would go back to requiring them.


In other words:

  1. MIT believes that those with lower SAT/ACT are unlikely to be able to handle the work at MIT.
  2. Applicants whose SAT/ACT are below the level which indicates likelihood of being able to handle the work at MIT can be summarily rejected, but SAT/ACT will not matter for applicants whose SAT/ACT is high enough.
  3. Some applicants with lower SAT/ACT may choose not to waste their time (and money) and the MIT admissions readers’ time by making no-hope applications (presumably a desired effect).

Put it another way, it looks like MIT is using SAT/ACT as a “pass / fail” threshold.


I am going to hazard a guess if Harvard loses its suit on affirmative action, TO will become prevalent. If Harvard prevails, more elites will go back to testing required.


Bravo MIT. I hope more schools follow MIT. All metrics are flawed in one way or another, but having access to many measures can only help.


I hope that MIT publishes their research. I agree that a test optional policy might be the worst of all worlds, and schools should choose to either require tests, or go test blind.

Many highly rejective schools had already announced they will be TO for at least the next cycle, so it will be hard to tell if MIT’s decision becomes a bellwhether.

Not sure if this has been posted elsewhere, but the UNC system will also require tests again, starting up with the class of 2023.


What I’m sure applicants would really like to know: where exactly that threshold is. If we look at pre-TO scores (say, class of 2023) would the threshold be around 25th percentile, or perhaps lower?

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A few years ago, I would have disagreed. However, I’ve become increasingly more aware of the apparently rampant grade inflation at the high school level (and elsewhere).

I don’t know what the SAT or ACT tests except testing well on that test. But it is, ARGUABLY, an objective metric.

I don’t think the UC system will re-instate the standardized tests, but I think it is possible that there might just be a movement towards test-required or at least TO ( with a “wink, wink”) with other schools.