International students: COVID-19 impacts on testing and admissions

person with laptop

For more, check out our full Coronavirus Resource Library at this link.

From test cancellations to changing admissions policies, students around the world are dealing with uncertainty around college admissions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How are international applicants to U.S. colleges and universities impacted by these changes?

Students who are planning to take standardized tests face a rapidly changing testing landscape. In recent weeks, both SAT and ACT have cancelled test dates and offered plans in case of continued school cancellations in the fall. Here’s a quick overview of what we know so far:

SAT Updates

  • Test dates: College Board has already added a standard in-person test date on September 26 and is exploring an additional international administration. International students WILL be able to take the SAT in September AND the previously scheduled tests on August 29, October 3, and December 5.  But the November 7 administration is ONLY for U.S. test takers.
  • Test registration: Registration will open in May for the August, September, and October SATs. Class of 2021 students who were already registered for the June test and don’t yet have an official SAT score on record will be given priority. The College Board will contact you directly with the exact date when registration opens for you.
  • Subject Tests: Students can take Subject Tests on August 29, October 3, and December 5 test dates. Subject Tests will NOT be offered on the new September 26 administration. 
  • At-home SAT: If schools do not reopen this fall, the College Board will provide a digital SAT that students can take at home. They have stated that this will indeed be available to international students.

ACT Updates

  • Test dates: As of today, the ACT has not yet formally cancelled the June ACT. Here are the remaining 2020 test dates and registration deadlines:
Test date Registration deadline

Late registration (late fee)

June 12-13 May 22 June 5
July 17-18 June 26 July 10
September 11-12 August 21 September 4
October 9-10 September 18 October 2
December 11-12 November 20 December 4

  • Test format: International administrations not cancelled by their host countries will be administered in-person at testing centers using the computer-based testing format that has become the norm for ACT outside the U.S. (excepting students who have been approved for accommodations that cannot be administered on a computer). While the ACT plans to launch remotely proctored at-home computer testing for U.S. students in fall/early winter 2020, it’s not yet clear whether or when remote proctoring for at-home testing will be available for international students. ACT will “evaluate the remote proctoring solution as a possibility” for these students, with more information “available in the coming weeks.” 

We’ll be updating this section as we learn more.

Test-optional college admissions policies

In response to worldwide school closures and testing cancellations due to COVID-19, U.S. colleges and universities are updating their admission policies. As ArborBridge anticipated, admission offices are so far responding to this public health crisis with sympathy and generosity. Many schools have started by posting acknowledgements that students will have fewer testing opportunities and are softening the emphasis on admission requirements, including standardized test scores. And an increasing number of schools - including the University of California system and many highly-selective private schools - are going further by adopting temporary test-optional policies and lifting standardized testing requirements for fall 2020 applicants. For all schools that ArborBridge checked, temporary SAT/ACT test-optional policies extend to international students, and we expect this will be the norm for the vast majority of schools. However, international applicants are generally still required to submit English proficiency exam scores from TOEFL or IELTS. See the full list of schools with test optional policies for international students at FairTest.

Key Takeaway: International students should expect that new temporary test-optional policies will apply to them. However, TOEFL or IELTS scores may still be required in many cases. Check individual schools' admissions websites to confirm.

Need more individualized advice?

The recommendations above are generalized plans. If you have specific questions or want a personalized plan, reach out to our experts here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.

About ArborBridge

ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.

Rose Paik

About Rose Paik

Rose masterminds the development and design of ArborBridge’s modern, data-driven digital curriculum and learning platforms. After attending the University of Washington Foster School of Business, she earned her Master’s in Educational Technology from Johns Hopkins University School of Education, where her graduate work focused on employing digital-age learning to enhance standardized test preparation instruction and create personalized learning experiences for every student. With over a decade of tutoring experience, Rose also remains one of the highest-performing tutors in ArborBridge’s history.

You also might like: