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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 answer 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 not only 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for a fairer evaluation of students' applications, especially since the SAT and ACT have been criticized for being outdated methods of evaluating students' preparedness for college.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.


2020, 2021, and 2022: UC Becomes Test Optional for all Students

For all students applying to the University of California system in Fall 2020, Fall 2021, and Fall 2022, submitting SAT and ACT scores will be optional. Test optional means that students can choose whether they submit their test scores or not. If you do submit your scores, counselors will look at them and factor the scores into their admissions decisions. If you don't submit test scores, you won't be penalized; your admission decision will just be based on the other parts of your application.

Additionally, SAT and ACT scores will no longer be required when applying for Chancellor's or Regents scholarships. You may choose to include your scores on your application, but doing so is optional.

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.


2022 and 2023: UC Becomes Test Blind for California Students

In Fall 2022 and Fall 2023, UC will switch over to being a test blind school for California students. (It is expected to remain test optional for out-of-state and international students.) Whereas test optional means UC schools will still consider your SAT and ACT scores if you choose to submit them, test blind means that UC schools will not consider California students' SAT or ACT scores as part of the admissions process. Even if you submit your scores, they won't be reviewed.

However, schools may still ask students to submit ACT or SAT scores to determine other criteria, like which courses students should enroll in or if a student is eligible for scholarships.


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.


Phasing Out the SAT and ACT at UC at a Glance

That's 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 Optional
  • All students can submit their SAT/ACT scores, but it's not required
  • 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
  • Other scholarships (not Chancellor's or Regents)
  • Course placement
  • Statewide eligibility for admissions guarantee**
2022 Test Optional
  • All students can submit their SAT/ACT scores, but it's not required
  • Students won't be penalized for not submitting SAT/ACT scores
  • The SAT/ACT Writing tests are no longer required
  • Scholarships
  • Course placement
  • Statewide eligibility for admissions guarantee**
2023 Test Blind
  • California students can submit SAT/ACT scores, but they won't be considered in the admissions process
  • Schools are expected to remain test optional for out-of-state and international students
  • Scholarships
  • Course placement
  • Statewide eligibility for admissions guarantee**
2024 Test Blind
  • California students can submit SAT/ACT scores, but they won't be considered in the admissions process
  • Schools are expected to stay test optional for out-of-state and international students
  • Scholarships
  • Course placement
  • Statewide eligibility for admissions guarantee**
2025 SAT/ACT Eliminated, New UC Exam Potentially Instated
  • UC completely eliminates the SAT/ACT requirement for California students
  • If the new UC admissions test is available, California students will have to take it and submit those scores instead
  • Unknown yet if out-of-state and international students will take new UC exam, submit ACT/SAT scores, or have no testing requirement
  • TBD

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

** The California statewide eligibility admissions guarantee is a program that guarantees in a UC school for students who are in the top 9% of high school graduates. For more information, visit this website.


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?

That's a good question. For students applying in Fall 2020 and 2021, the UC system is test optional for all students, including out-of-state and international students. What happens after that isn't decided yet. Likely the schools will remain test optional to these students for 2022 and 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 2021 or Fall 2022?

In 2021 and 2022, UC schools will transition to being test optional. While applicants aren't required to submit ACT or SAT scores in 2021 or 2022, they will still be considered if you do submit them.

So what does that mean, exactly? If your application lacks a spike, or if you're worried your application won't stand out from the crowd, submitting stellar test scores could help you earn admission into your dream school.

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 Applying for Scholarships?

While the UC system is phasing out ACT and SAT test scores as admissions criteria, schools may still use standardized test scores to determine whether you're eligible for specific scholarships or awards. (Note that test scores are now optional for both the Chancellor's and the Regents scholarships.)

Be sure to check out your specific school's scholarship website to see if you'll need to submit ACT or SAT scores to be eligible for all the awards your school and/or department offer.



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 Pursuing the California Statewide Eligibility Admissions Guarantee?

If you plan to take advantage of the California Statewide Eligibility Admissions Guarantee, then it's important that you take the ACT or SAT since test scores are still part of the program's evaluation criteria.

The California Statewide Eligibility Admissions Guarantee states that students who graduate in the top 9% of all California students and aren't admitted to the UC campuses they apply to will be admitted into another UC school if there's space. So for example, if you apply to UC Berkeley and don't get in, the Eligibility Admissions Guarantee will ensure that you earn a spot on another campus if there's space.

You can learn more about the specifics of the California Statewide Eligibility Admissions Guarantee here.


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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