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University of California Drops SAT/ACT Scores: What It Means for You


Yep, you read that correctly: in May 2020, the University of California Board of Regents voted unanimously to stop requiring the ACT and SAT as part of admissions applications. In other words, if you're applying to a UC school, you won't have to submit your ACT or SAT scores.

Before you get super excited, there are some caveats you should know about. That's why we're breaking down the changes — and answering your FAQs! — below.



UC Berkeley is part of the UC system, which means Berkeley will be dropping the SAT/ACT as an admissions requirement, too.


Why Is the University of California Making This Change?

According to the Board of Regents, they have decided to move away from the ACT and SAT in order to create a more fair admissions process for students. The Board of Regents believes that moving away from the current standardized testing model will allow for a fairer evaluation of students' applications, especially since the SAT and ACT have been criticized for being outdated methods of evaluating students' preparedness for college.

While this change may seem like it came out of the blue, the truth is that the University of California system has been working on making the shift away from requiring the SAT or ACT for a few years now. According to the university's press release, UC began researching how this change would affect students in 2018. Here's their official statement:


"Today's decision marks the culmination of a two-year, research-based effort by UC to evaluate the value and use of standardized tests in admissions. That process began in July 2018 when President Napolitano asked the Academic Senate to evaluate whether the University and its students are best served by current standardized testing practices. The Academic Senate convened the Standardized Testing Task Force (STTF) in January 2019 and their findings were finalized and presented to the president in April 2020."


So while UC announced the decision to stop requiring the SAT and ACT recently, it's actually been in the works for a while.




When Will UC Stop Requiring the ACT and SAT?

Before you call up the College Board or the ACT to cancel your test, you should know that UC is phasing out standardized test scores for applicants between now and 2025.


2021, 2022, and 2023: UC Becomes Test Blind for all Students

In Fall 2021, 2022, and 2023, UC will switch over to being a test blind school for all UC applicants (this includes out-of-state and international applicants). Test blind means that UC schools will not consider students' SAT or ACT scores as part of the admissions process. Even if you submit your scores, they won't be reviewed.

Additionally, SAT and ACT scores will no longer be required or considered when applying for Chancellor's or Regents scholarships. Your scores will not be viewed or considered in the scholarship awarding process even if you submit them.

And finally, UC schools now no longer require SAT Essay and ACT Writing portions. These scores will not be used as a part of the admissions process in any way beginning in Fall 2020. So, even if you take the essay, those scores won't be part of your admissions decision.

If you do choose to submit SAT/ACT scores in 2021, 2022, or 2023, they may be used for course placement, but only after you enroll at a UC school. This means that the test scores you submit may have bearing on what courses you take, but not on your application for admission or your scholarship eligibility.

When conversations first began about phasing out SAT/ACT score requirements for UC schools, the plan was to go test optional for out-of-state and international applicants in 2020, 2021, and 2022. But that decision was reversed in May 2021, and all UC schools now have a test blind policy for all applicants through 2023.


2025: UC Institutes New Standardized Exam

Beginning with Fall 2025 applications, all use of the ACT and SAT will be eliminated for California students. However, UC has announced that it will require that all prospective California students take a UC-specific standardized test that's in development. We've included more information about the new UC test later in this section. It's not yet known what the testing policies for out-of-state and international students will be, but UC states that more information will be available in early 2022.


Phasing Out the SAT and ACT at UC at a Glance

These changes are a lot to soak in, so here's a handy chart that walks you through all the changes happening around the elimination of the SAT and ACT in UC schools. The left column lists the application year to make things easier for you.

Entering Class SAT/ACT Elimination Phase What It Means How SAT & ACT Scores Could Be Used
2021 Test Blind
  • Students can submit SAT/ACT scores, but they won't be considered in the admissions process
  • Students won't be penalized for not submitting SAT/ACT scores
  • The SAT/ACT Writing tests are no longer required
  • SAT/ACT scores no longer considered for Regents or Chancellor's scholarships

  • Course placement
  • Statewide eligibility for admissions guarantee**
2022 Test Blind
  • Students can submit SAT/ACT scores, but they won't be considered in the admissions process
  • Students won't be penalized for not submitting SAT/ACT scores
  • The SAT/ACT Writing tests are no longer required

  • Course placement
2023 Test Blind
  • Students can submit SAT/ACT scores, but they won't be considered in the admissions process

  • Course placement


2024 Test Blind
  • Students can submit SAT/ACT scores, but they won't be considered in the admissions process

  • Course placement
2025 SAT/ACT Eliminated, New UC Exam Potentially Instated
  • If the new UC admissions test is available, California students will have to take it and submit those scores instead
  • If the new UC admissions test is ready, it will be made available to independent, private, and to out-of-state schools
  • If the new UC admissions test is not available, UC will eliminate its testing requirement for California freshman admissions and work to define an appropriate approach for out-of-state applicants
  • TBD

* This chart has been adapted from one released by UC as part of its initial press release



A New UC Exam Will Take the Place of the SAT and ACT

The University of California plans to replace the SAT and ACT with their own standardized entrance exam by 2024 or 2025.

While the details of this exam are slim at the moment, what we do know is that UC wants to create an entrance exam that "better aligns with the content the University expects students to have mastered for college readiness."

In other words, UC will create a test that potential students have to take that is a better, more fair evaluation of whether they are prepared for college! As of right now, UC has stated that it will make this test available to California public, private, and homeschooled students.

Right now, it's unclear whether all California students will take the test as part of mandatory state-wide testing, or if there will be a fee associated with the new, UC-specific exam. We also don't know when the new UC exam will be required for students. The good news is that the SAT and ACT will not be used as admissions criteria by 2024 no matter what.

Like we mentioned earlier, there's not a lot of information available about the new UC test yet. (It's still in development!) We will update this article with more information as it becomes available, so be sure to bookmark this article and check back later.




Will Out-of-State or International Students Have to Submit ACT or SAT Scores?

No. For students applying in Fall 2021, 2022, and 2023, the UC system is test blind for all students, including out-of-state and international students. What happens after that isn't decided yet. Likely the schools will remain test blind to these students after 2023, then a decision will be made for 2024 applicants and onward whether they take the new UC test, submit ACT or SAT scores, or have no standardized testing requirement at all.



Before you decide to skip the ACT or SAT entirely, you should decide whether that's REALLY the right choice for you. Check out our list of things to consider below.


Should You Take the ACT or SAT If You're Applying to UC?

Students who are applying to a University of California school between now and 2025 may be wondering if they should still take the ACT or SAT.

We've put together a list of questions to help you decide if you should still take the SAT or ACT exam.


Are You Applying in Fall 2024 or Beyond?

In 2021, UC schools will transition to being test blind until 2024. While applicants can submit test scores, they won't be viewed or considered as a part of your application for admission.

But plans are still up in the air for 2024 admissions and beyond. While it doesn't look like UC schools will revert to requiring SAT/ACT scores, having your test scores on hand just in case is the best plan for students planning to apply to UC schools in the next few years.

Just make sure that your SAT or ACT test scores are actually great. Submitting sub-par test scores could have the opposite effect on your application!


Are You Unsure About the Quality of Your Application?

While the UC system is phasing out its acceptance of SAT/ACT scores as part of its admissions criteria, there still may be instances when test scores will be considered. UC's admissions website states:

"UC will not consider SAT or ACT test scores when making admissions decisions or awarding scholarships. If you choose to submit test scores as part of your application, they may be used as an alternative method of fulfilling minimum requirements for eligibility or for course placement after you enroll."


So what does this mean? Essentially, if there's an aspect of your application that seems to be lacking and you choose to submit SAT/ACT scores, UC admissions may look at your scores to see if they speak toward your quality as an applicant in ways that other aspects of your application don't. If you have stellar test scores but feel other aspects of your application are weak, submit your SAT/ACT scores just in case.



Some programs at UC schools may still continue to require the SAT or ACT, at least for the next few years. Be sure to check with your department and/or program before you skip out on taking a standardized test.


Does Your Program Require the SAT/ACT for Course Placement?

Some departments, programs, or schools may still use SAT and ACT scores to determine which courses students would take as freshmen. That way, schools can make sure that you're enrolling in classes that will set you up for long-term success!

To figure out if your program requires SAT or ACT scores for placement, be sure to check out the departmental website. If you're still unsure about whether you need scores for course placement, contact your admissions counselor.


Are You Applying to Non-UC Schools?

If you're planning on applying to schools outside of the UC system or schools in other states, then you should definitely still take the ACT or SAT. Even though UC is phasing out scores, most other schools — especially competitive ones! — still use standardized test scores as part of the admissions process.


Will Other California Public Schools Eliminate the ACT or SAT? What About California Private Schools?

As of right now, no other California universities have indicated that they are moving away from requiring the ACT or SAT. While some experts believe they may follow suit in the future, as of right now, no other universities or university systems have announced plans to do so.




What's Next?

If you're not sure if your potential schools fall into the University of California system, this article will help you figure out if they do!

You may be planning to take advantage of the new UC SAT/ACT policies and not submit your test scores. If so, we can help make sure the rest of your application stands out! First, check out our guide to the college application process. After that, head over to this article about writing killer application essays! Once you get that settled, you can start requesting letters of recommendation that will help you get into your dream school.

If you still need to take the SAT or ACT because you're a non-resident student, looking for scholarships, or need course placement, don't worry. You can learn all about acing the SAT here. (We also have an ACT guide!)


Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Ashley Robinson
About the Author

Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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