YuLin Zhen, Staff Photographer

Starting this fall, Yale will adopt a new test-flexible policy, wherein applicants will once again be required to submit test scores. Now, however, the list of permissible tests includes International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement exams in addition to the traditional SAT and ACT, and students are required to submit just one score from any of those options.

The policy change, announced last month, comes after four years of a test-optional policy first adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, the News found that students from low-income backgrounds were more likely to omit scores from their Yale applications under test-optional policies. Additionally, international students have long expressed difficulties accessing SAT and ACT test centers in their home countries. 

Yale’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions has maintained that test scores are only one part of a student’s application. They have also emphasized that scores can help contextualize other parts of Yale’s holistic review process, which considers students’ high school GPAs, recommendation letters and extracurriculars, among other factors — which, research suggests, may mean that test scores could prove more advantageous to low-income applicants than often thought.

Several students expressed generally positive reactions to the new test-flexible policy; however, they also expressed hopes that the University will double down on its commitment to inclusive messaging and to eliminating barriers to testing access.

“I’m really happy with this change and I think this should be the model that other Ivies follow,” said Annalie Diaz ’27, a QuestBridge match scholar who submitted her scores when applying to Yale. “They also should continue to push those explicit words, saying ‘we will take your score into context, we will be aware of the context of your school.’”

Reactions to and hopes for test-flexibility

In a statement posted on its website, the admissions office notes that test scores are considered in relation to others from an applicant’s high school.

“No exam can demonstrate every student’s college readiness or perfectly predict future performance,” the statement reads. “Tests can highlight an applicant’s areas of academic strength, reinforce high school grades, fill in gaps in a transcript stemming from extenuating circumstances, and — most importantly — identify students whose performance stands out in their high school context.”

For Diaz, the coupling of the new test-flexible policy with messaging that explicitly details how scores will be used and considered has alleviated many of the concerns she previously had about standardized testing.

Coming from an under-resourced high school, Diaz said that her score — which was below Yale’s average but well above her high school’s — was necessary in contextualizing other parts of her application.

Since announcing its test-flexible policy, the admissions office has expanded the range of scores published on its standardized testing page. Previously, Yale published scores from its 25th to 75th percentiles. Now, however, it lists the range of ACT and SAT scores from the 10th to 90th percentile.

Diaz said the decision to expand the published range is “great.”

“By extending the range of published scores of students at Yale, students can see that people from similar backgrounds with similar scores have submitted those scores and gotten into Yale,” she said. “They will be comforted by the knowledge that they don’t have to do as well as the students going to private prep schools, they just have to be able to stand out within their own context.”

But Christopher Vera, a senior at Wilbur Cross High School who was recently admitted to Yale’s class of 2028, looked less favorably upon the new policy. 

He said that standardized testing adds an extra stressor to high school seniors who are likely already stressed about college applications. Vera said that he does not think that expanding the types of accepted test scores — which now includes Advanced Placement, or AP, and International Baccalaureate, or IB, exams — will do much to alleviate this stress.

“Even though my school offers APs, I think that if this policy did affect me, I would still heavily prioritize the SAT,” Vera said. “Maybe I’d even prioritize it more than I did when Yale was test-optional. I feel like now that all students are required to submit scores, they will pay more attention to them. Now that scores are such a hot topic, I feel like I’d feel pressure to just get as many on my application as I could.”

Diaz holds the opposite view, and is hopeful that the expanded list of permissible tests will make it easier for students to obtain and submit scores.

She thinks that all acceptable test scores are useful in leveling the playing field between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

“For me, what made me see the [tests] as this great equalizer between all students is that this is the one point in the admissions office in which all students can have at least somewhat similar grounding,” she said. “So for example, with extracurriculars, someone’s wealthy parents can get them an internship. For essays, students can hire private writing tutors. But everyone is taking the same [tests].”

Going forward, Diaz added that she said she would like to see the admissions office promote free resources to help students study for the tests from which they will now be requiring scores.

Reactions from international students

Last month, a News survey found that domestic respondents were 12 percentage points more likely to have taken a standardized test before college when compared to international respondents.

In line with the survey results, several international students described difficulty accessing standardized testing centers in their home countries, adding that tests are more accessible for wealthy international students.

Tajrian Khan ’27, who is Bangladeshi, described extensive financial barriers to taking SAT and ACT tests in Bangladesh. Unlike domestic high schools, which frequently distribute fee waivers, Khan said it was difficult to get financial help paying for testing because few students from his school were applying to college in the United States.

Khan is from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Every testing center in the country is located either in Dhaka or in Chittagong, the country’s second-largest city, he said. Students from anywhere but those two cities have to travel long distances and find overnight accommodations in order to take SAT or ACT tests, Khan said.

“The new policy doesn’t really do anything at all in the context of problems for international students,” Khan said. 

Jesse Okoche ’25, who is from Botswana and could not access a testing center when applying to Yale, shared similar concerns and called the new policy a “bummer.”

He said that his family has been scrambling to assemble the funds to send his little sister, who is currently applying to college, to Botswana’s only SAT testing center — five hours away from their home.

Adding APs and IBs to the list of accepted scores does little to alleviate international accessibility issues, Khan said. Even if a Bangladeshi student were able to access an AP or IB testing center, he said, they would have to self-study for the exam, putting them at a disadvantage to domestic students or students who are able to enroll in AP classes to prepare for the tests.

“No schools in Bangladesh offer AP classes,” Khan said. I know before this year, there were no AP testing centers in all of Bangladesh, so even if you wanted to take the test without a class, that wasn’t an option.”

Overall, though, Khan said he believes that test scores are an important measure and that he hopes to see Yale expand the list of acceptable scores in the future.

Okoche, however, was disappointed to see test scores become again required in any capacity, and agreed with Khan that the addition of AP and IB scores does little to improve international access.

Okoche said that, in addition to few SAT and ACT testing centers, IB curriculum is also rare in Botswana. He said there is only one private school in the capital city that offers IBs.

In the spring of 2023, a digital version of the SAT was offered internationally; the first digital version of the SAT will be administered in the United States later this month. Okoche said he is hopeful but not confident that a digitized SAT will improve international access.

“As an international student from a country that doesn’t send many students to Yale, I felt like, as one of the first to do something, I have this responsibility to open the door for the rest,” Okoche said. “And so this new policy is basically telling me that everything I’ve done has failed to open that door, failed to show Yale that [students who were unable to access tests] are capable, even though they don’t have that one metric Yale is looking for.”

But even though the new digital SAT and the new test-flexible policy don’t solve all of the access problems faced by international students, Okoche said he appreciates that the change is a “step in the right direction.”

Yale’s new policy makes it more accessible to low-income international students than policies recently adopted by other schools, Okoche said. As an example, he said that a student who could not apply to Dartmouth or MIT — two schools that recently reinstated a more stringent SAT or ACT score requirement — could perhaps still apply to Yale going forward.

“From all of this, my takeaway is hope,” Okoche said. “We’ve taken a step, and I’m hoping we can continue to take more steps.”

The first domestic digital administration of the SAT will take place on March 9.

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.