UBC adopts 'test-optional' approach for 2021W US curriculum secondary school applicants

US-curriculum secondary school applicants will not have to submit test scores when applying to UBC for the 2021 winter term, UBC Vancouver Senate ruled at its October meeting.

Currently, UBC requires a standardized test score submission from these applicants. In the Core Assessment for admissions, SAT/ACT scores and secondary school grades are weighted equally into the final rating given to the student, with test scores determining which way ratings are rounded. For the year, admissions will be “test-optional.”

As noted by the proposal put forward by the Senate Admissions Committee, the majority of SAT and ACT test sittings were cancelled in the spring of 2020 due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though some tests were offered in the late summer and fall, sittings are much less frequent and cancellations may occur depending on the status of the pandemic.

High demand has resulted in those living in larger cities having trouble booking a test sitting, while travelling to a different region is impeded by COVID-19 regulations. Many students also feel unable to adequately prepare for the examination, due to the stressful situation these restrictions and the general circumstances of the pandemic have created.

The US not-for-profit College Board has urged higher education institutions to consider these factors in their admissions decisions, by being flexible with the deadlines for test score submission, considering students that are unable to submit a score, and recognizing that second tries may not have been available to students. In response, many universities have decided to make 2021 Winter Term admissions “test-optional,” now including UBC.

During last year’s admission cycle, UBC received over 3,000 undergraduate applications from students attending US curriculum schools.

Sam Saini, associate registrar of undergraduate admissions, said that waiving test requirements for these applicants this year is also beneficial for the university.

“Many of these students would … [be] prevented from completing an application to UBC, which would have a negative impact on our ability to enrol a diverse group of students from around the world,” he said in an emailed statement.

Partially due to an increased understanding of the race, income and gender biases that can affect standardized test scores, many universities have already instituted more permanent flexible testing policies, the proposal states. Some US schools, such as New York University, have decided to adapt their requirements to encourage greater inclusivity and diversity in enrolment, by allowing alternatives for the SAT/ACT or eliminating the requirement altogether.

The UBC Senate Admissions Committee will likewise be considering implementing a permanent flexible testing policy for US-curriculum applicants, committee members confirmed at the Senate meeting.

However, Saini said that currently, the change in policy is simply in response to “pandemic-related disruptions.”

“UBC’s long-term plan with respect to this requirement still needs to be deliberated upon, but this is an important discussion given the theme of inclusion that is discussed in UBC’s Strategic Plan.”