The truth about SAT


There has been confusion about standardised test requirements lately following information on several foreign university websites. Students are enquiring whether SAT is no longer required for UG admissions in the US. The truth is — it is still required.

According to the Columbia University website: “The redesigned SAT consists of two sections, each graded on an 800-point scale and the writing portion will be separate. Columbia does not require the optional writing section. You will be evaluated on the highest score you receive in any individual section. The SAT Subject Test scores are not required, but Columbia will accept scores from the exams if you choose to submit them.”

What this means is that the SAT or ACT is not optional and is a mandatory requirement to get into good institutes in the US. The essay-writing component of these exams is, however, optional. The SAT Subject Tests measure your knowledge in specific subjects such as physics, maths, chemistry, biology, languages and so on. Submitting results from these tests are now optional for some schools.

Keep in mind that the information given on university websites lists the bare minimum requirements and if you realistically want a strong chance to get admission in to some institutes your application has to be way higher than the minimum requirements. Furthermore, every institute will evaluate your application in comparison with applications received from the same region and possibly with applicants with the same nationality. This means that you will be competing with thousands of Indian students who have high scores in the SAT or ACT, SAT Subject tests and prior academics. Hence, fulfilling the minimum requirements is not enough for admission.

Several institutes have debated standardised test requirements acknowledging that students from lower income backgrounds are at a disadvantage given that they won’t opt for expensive coaching classes. To make the admission process fairer, institutes do consider an applicant’s overall profile including leadership, sports, community service and other achievements. “While we normally require two SAT Subject Tests, you may apply without them if the cost of the tests represents a financial hardship or if you prefer to have your application considered without them. Standardised testing is only one component of our admissions process and your application will be evaluated on the basis of all submitted information,” states the Harvard University website.

While it is true that no one factor can get you admitted or denied at an institute, the first thing that institutes look at are your grades and standardised test scores. If you are the headgirl of your school and have excellent leadership and teamwork activities along with participation in sports, debates, elocution and so on, but your academics are weak and you have not appeared for the SAT or ACT or have scored low in your SAT Subject Tests, you may not get admission into your dream college in the US. It is important to not just meet the minimum requirements of some institutes, but instead to excel in every area of your application.

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