The SAT Essay and ACT Writing continue to pose a conundrum for students. While College Board and ACT have made these components optional, some colleges continue to require them. Fewer than 10% of selective colleges require the SAT Essay or ACT Writing, yet almost two-thirds of students take the essay exams each year. As colleges grow more consistent in their policies, it may become easier for students to make appropriate plans. High profile schools such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Stanford, and the University of California system have affirmed their commitment to the SAT Essay and the recently revamped ACT Writing. Meanwhile, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Cornell, Northwestern, and Boston College have dropped the essay requirement.
The following table of 360 popular colleges provides a wide range of institutions and policies. In general, we find that less competitive colleges are less likely to require either essay.
Despite the decline in colleges requiring an SAT or ACT essay, Compass is still recommending that students make the essay a part of their testing plans. Skipping the essay can leave a student scrambling to fit in an additional test date should his or her college plans change. Some colleges requiring the essay will not superscore test dates without the essay. The University of California system alone drives the decision for many of Compass’ students. Just as important, it’s uncommon for an ACT or SAT essay to be a significant negative factor on an application. With a minimum amount of practice, most students can reach the 25th – 75th percentile score ranges of even the most elite colleges in the country. In other words, there is more upside than downside when looking at an extended test day.]
*School has a Test Optional or Test Flexible policy but may still have requirements for students choosing to submit SAT or ACT scores.
** University of Miami uses SAT essay or ACT writing for English Composition placement, but not for admission evaluation, for new undergraduate applicants.
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ACT Writing scores have gone through multiple changes. To try to clear things up, Compass has published ACT Writing Scores Explained. A similar analysis for the SAT is also available.
The Compass 360 provides New SAT and ACT scores for some of the most competitive colleges in the country.
Score choice and superscoring policies can be found for the Compass 360.
Subject Test requirements continue to evolve, so Compass keeps an up-to-date list.
Tests & Scores
How We Use Test Scores
Standardized tests are required for any student applying as a freshman to MIT. However, they are not the only or even the most important factor.
When we receive your application, we review all of your academic information—grades, scores, classes, etc.—to ensure that you are prepared for MIT. In part because of the strength of our applicant pool, the majority of our applicants are very well prepared to succeed at MIT.
What this means is that you shouldn't stress out too much about your because we admit people, not numbers. With that said, tests are certainly important, and you should prepare for them as best you can.
Standardized Test Requirements: 2017-2018 and BeyondAll applicants must complete one test from each category
For native English speakers:
We require the SAT or the ACT. We do not prefer one over the other. In addition, we require two SAT Subject Tests: one in math (level 1 or 2), and one in science (physics, chemistry, or biology e/m). We do not have a preference as to which science test you take or which math level you take.
For non-native English speakers:
You have two options: 1) take the tests required for native English speakers (see above), or 2) take the TOEFL and two SAT Subject Tests, one in math (level 1 or 2) and one in science (physics, chemistry, or biology e/m). If you have been using English for less than 5 years or do not speak English at home or at school, we strongly suggest that you take the TOEFL, although it is not required for you to do so.
While MIT will not require either the ACT writing section or SAT optional essay, MIT does value writing and communication highly.
The MIT curriculum is organized around the belief that the development of effective writing and speaking is an integral part of undergraduate education at the Institute. Students in any field should learn to write prose that is clear, organized, and eloquent, and to convincingly present facts, data, and ideas. As such, all MIT students must fulfill a communication requirement that integrates substantial instruction and practice in writing and speaking into all four years and across all parts of MIT's undergraduate program.
If you take the same test (SAT, ACT, or an SAT Subject Test) multiple times, we will consider the highest score achieved in each section. This superscoring also applies to students who submit scores from both the "old" and "new" SAT. We do this in order to consider all applicants in their best light.
Students are free to use the College Board's Score Choice option and the ACT's option to submit the scores of your choice as well.
Testing Deadlines and Reporting Scores
In order to apply for freshman admission, you must take the required tests on or before the November test date for Early Action or the December test date for Regular Action. These are the latest scores that will reach the Admissions Committee in time for review.
Your scores must be reported to us officially from the testing agency; scores you list on your application and scores appearing on your school transcript will not be considered official.
Please allow plenty of time for your scores to arrive at MIT. Keep in mind that it takes at least 4 to 6 weeks for us to receive SAT scores. We recommend that you list MIT as a school to receive your scores when you take the test. If you are an Early Action applicant, and you take the November test—or if you are a Regular Action applicant, and take the December test—you must list MIT as a school to receive your scores or we will not receive them in time for our review.
It is important that you register for tests with the same name as you have indicated on your application or MyMIT account. Your record and test scores will not be linked in our system if the names do not match.
When To Take Which Tests
Obviously, it's vital that students take all tests on or before the deadlines. Beyond that, however, choose your test dates wisely! For example, if you will be completing high school physics, chemistry or biology before your senior year, it's very wise to take the appropriate SAT Subject Tests(s) right afterwards (usually May or June), while the material is fresh in your mind.
Many applicants do take at least one science subject test during year, after completing only a portion of the given course; our Admissions Committee recognizes this and judges the scores accordingly. As a general rule, however, it's best to take a subject exam just after you've completed a whole course.
The content of your math courses should determine whether you take the Level 1 or the Level 2 Math test and when (we have no preference between the two tests). Before you choose the dates for any of your tests, particularly the math test, be sure to get advice from your school counselor and your teachers.
We do not have cut off or recommended scores for the ACT, SAT, or SAT Subject Tests as scores are evaluated within an applicant's context. To view test score statistics from the most recent admissions year, visit our admissions statistics page.
However, we do have minimum and recommended scores for the TOEFL. These minimums are in place to ensure your level of English proficiency. Because MIT offers no English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, and English is the language of MIT, all students must show that they will thrive in our community.
For the TOEFL Internet Based Test (iBT), the minimum composite score is a 90. We recommend scores of at least 23 for each section, and a composite score of at least 100. Similarly, for the TOEFL revised Paper-Delivered Test (rPDT), we recommend scores of at least 23 for each section. If you have taken the TOEFL Paper Based Test (PBT) prior to June 2017, the minimum composite score is a 577, with a recommended composite score of at least 600.