Two-Year Test Optional Pilot Program and Update on High School Grading Practices

May 5, 2020

Today we have a few important announcements to share with you:

  • A two-year pilot program making standardized tests optional for undergraduate applicants
  • The removal of the GRE requirement for our graduate program in Architecture  
  • Our adjusted approach to high school grading systems

Standardized Testing Policy

Effective immediately, The Cooper Union undergraduate admission process will be test optional. This pilot program will be in effect for the Fall 2021 and 2022 entering classes.

We have taken this step in keeping with Cooper’s longstanding commitment to access and in light of the unprecedented circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The SAT and ACT tests, previously scheduled for this spring, have been cancelled, and there is continued uncertainty about when future testing dates may be available. Moreover, the lack of clarity surrounding the months ahead have caused us to reflect on what is best for our applicants; the more we can remove uncertainty with decisions like this, the better it is for students and families, especially now. Finally, concerns related to the public health crisis remain, and no student should feel a need to risk their health or that of others in order to take a standardized test.  

After a careful review in 2022, we will determine whether to return to a testing requirement for undergraduate applicants or keep the test-optional policy in place.  

This approach will provide applicants with the best opportunity to determine their most appropriate option for applying to The Cooper Union over the next two admission cycles. If students choose to take the SAT or ACT and if they wish to submit results as part of their application materials, we will consider them, as always, in context and as part of our holistic review process. If students choose not to submit exam results, we will evaluate their candidacy without scores and in keeping with our standard approach. Students will not be implicitly advantaged or disadvantaged by the choices they make.

Grading Matters (it does!)

We are aware that a large number of high schools have switched to pass/fail grading systems for the spring term in response to the crisis. Students entering The Cooper Union in Fall 2020 and beyond can rest assured that we will accept these transcripts without prejudice.

English Language Testing

Regarding TOEFL testing, earlier this year we began to accept the Duolingo Test as one of the permissible tests for students whose first language is not English. This test is available online and does not require a student to visit a testing center.

Graduate GRE 

Today we are also announcing that effective with the entering class of 2021, our graduate program in Architecture (Master of Science in Architecture or M.S. Architecture) will no longer require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). This test may be submitted should an applicant choose to do so, however there will be no implicit advantage or disadvantage based on a submission or lack thereof.

There will be more information available regarding our testing policies in the coming days.


Office of Admissions


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.