Tim Tai, Senior Photographer

Starting this fall, Yale will again require applicants to submit standardized test scores.

Under the new “test-flexible” policy, applicants must submit at least one score type out of a set of four: SAT, ACT, Advanced Placement, or AP, and International Baccalaureate, or IB. 

Yale first enacted a test-optional model in 2020, responding to impacts on standardized testing opportunities wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. For each of the four application cycles that have followed, Yale has renewed its test-optional policy by one year at a time. This change will make next year’s Yale applicants, the prospective class of 2029, the first required to submit test scores in five years.

In an interview with the News, the admissions office explained its goals for the policy and hopes for the future.

“We hope that this becomes a more widespread, better understood policy,” Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan said in an interview with the News on Thursday morning, after the College made its new policy public. “Because we knew that it was new, we felt pretty responsible for putting out the substance of the materials that we did. We also understand that this is the start of the conversation. We’re going to have to keep talking more about it, updating materials and spreading information as we move forward.”

Quinlan said that Yale decided to include AP and IB scores in the set of test types that fulfill Yale’s requirement because internal research suggested that they are similarly successful as SAT and ACT scores in predicting college academic success. 

By including AP and IB scores, Quinlan hopes that students for whom testing was not originally part of their college application plans — like students applying to schools who are otherwise test-optional or test-blind, such as the University of California system — will be able to also apply to Yale without having to devote extra hours to SAT and ACT preparation.

Applicants to the class of 2029 will see a new three-part section, according to the admissions office. The first section will allow students to select up to four score types they would like considered with their Yale application. The second will give students a space to report scores that do not appear elsewhere in their applications. The third, which will be optional, will allow students to explain the circumstances surrounding any of their included test scores.

If an applicant indicates that they want their AP scores considered with their application, they are expected to submit the scores for all AP exams they took. There is no maximum number of AP scores that can be submitted, according to Mark Dunn ’07, senior associate director for outreach and recruitment at the admissions office. 

However, Dunn cautioned against students viewing a good AP score as a “ticket” into Yale, especially if the score is for a subject that does not showcase an applicant’s unique abilities.

“We really want to break out of the paradigm of students thinking that if they can just get a good AP score they’ll be set,” Dunn said. “As an example, we’ve used the case of, if you’re a native Italian speaker who is at a school that doesn’t offer APs, and you decide to just take the AP Italian exam and get a 5 and use that as the score you submit to us. Yes, you’ve met our requirements. But you haven’t helped your case, because you haven’t added any new evidence to your application.”

Because of how Yale is asking what scores applicants would like considered, it is possible for an application to make its way to the admissions office without any scores. 

In this case, Dunn said, the application would be considered incomplete. The admissions office plans to handle incomplete applications of this nature by following up directly with applicants and allowing them to update their applications to include scores after submission.

International access, financial barriers

In an interview with the News, Quinlan said that the admissions office acknowledges the barriers that exist for international students trying to take SAT and ACT exams but maintained the importance of test scores in Yale’s admissions process.

Earlier this month, a News survey found that current students who qualify for financial aid were more likely to have applied to Yale without submitting test scores than their wealthier peers. This trend also holds for international students. Several international students previously told the News that for them, lack of access to the required tests — at the time, the SAT and the ACT — was a bigger concern than deciding whether their scores were good enough to submit. 

Quinlan hopes new efforts to make the SAT more accessible will alleviate some of these concerns.

Students taking the SAT outside the U.S. first had the opportunity to take the exam online in the spring of 2023. Beginning this year, the online SAT will be administered to domestic students as well.

“I think there is a lot of hope that the digital SAT is going to make the international administration easier, less burdensome, more secure, and will hopefully change the ability and access people have to the exam,” Quinlan told the News.

Pranava Dhar ’25, who was head counselor of Camp Yale’s Orientation for International Students, generally favors the change since such tests are internationally standardized — he said exams like AP tests, IB tests, the SAT and the ACT can function as “universal litmus test[s]” that allow Yale to compare applicants across many academic systems.

But Dhar also is concerned that including AP and IB exams may exacerbate existing access divides.

“Students who go to international schools (which generally correlates with some privilege) can fulfill the requirement simply with their IB or AP scores, which is part of the curriculum, [but] these tests are exorbitantly expensive for anyone outside those systems.” Dhar wrote to the News on Thursday after Yale’s announcement. “This may put pressure on students outside those systems to sign up for these tests due to an ‘unwritten expectation’ even when SAT/ACT would suffice.”

Dhar’s comments are his own and do not reflect those of OIS broadly.

Discussions of international access did not play a large role in the decision to include AP and IB in the list of accepted tests, Quinlan said.

In interviews with the News earlier this month, many of the students who omitted scores from their Yale applications said that a main reason for doing so was that their scores were below the median range published on the admissions website.

Students said that seeing that their score was below Yale’s median likely would have deterred them from applying in a test-required admissions cycle.

The admissions office said they are aware of this and emphasized again that a relatively low score that stands out in relation to an applicant’s high school context can be extraordinarily helpful.

Dunn told the News that the office is in the process of expanding the median scores published on the admissions website from the currently-listed 25th to 75th percentile to instead show the 10th to 90th percentiles. He added, however, that this does not necessarily mean that applicants under the 10th percentile mark will not be competitive. 

“We’re encouraged by the fact that we have had lots of experience admitting and enrolling very talented students from lower-income backgrounds in years when we are requiring test scores,” Dunn said. “We did not have big challenges in our selection process responding to students with scores that were below our median.”

Quinlan hopes that other institutions will follow Yale’s lead and adopt a similar test-flexible approach in the near future.

“We understand that this is a new flavor of standardized testing,” Quinlan said. “But I hope that it’s one that other institutions will consider really seriously. Because it does continue to allow for some students for whom ACT or SAT testing is not part of their college plans to continue to provide the admissions committee with really valuable information that can help us respond to their talent and admit them to Yale.”

At present, more than 80 percent of U.S. colleges and universities remain test-optional, according to a recent tally from FairTest, an organization that describes its goal to be “promoting fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial evaluations of students, teachers and schools,” according to its website.

Anika Arora Seth contributed reporting.

Molly Reinmann covers Admissions, Financial Aid & Alumni for the News. Originally from Westchester, New York, she is a sophomore in Berkeley College majoring in American Studies.