Is Duke Test Optional?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Writing in a desk using a pencil.

Is Duke Test Optional?

Is Duke test optional? Due to the difficulties in obtaining access to standardized testing as a result of COVID-19, Duke University has decided to waive the requirement for prospective students to take standardized tests in the application process for the academic year 2020-2021.

Due to the unpredictability of testing availability in 2021 and the ongoing disruptions caused by COVID-19, the administrators at Duke have made the decision to continue the test-optional policy for one more academic year. Both first-year applicants and transfer applicants for the 2021-2022 school year will have the option of choosing whether or not to have their test scores taken into consideration.

Students taking an exam in a desk.

Students who are unable to submit their SAT or ACT scores or who choose not to do so will not be penalized in our consideration of their applications. Whether Duke will be test optional or not, the holistic review used by the university has and will always consider the SAT or ACT scores to be only one factor in its multifaceted evaluation process.

Other factors considered include the student’s coursework and performance in secondary school, letters of recommendation, meaningful involvement, and personal essays. As Duke becomes test optional, it will continue to evaluate the potential role that standardized tests will play in the future of the admissions process, particularly concerning the impact these tests will have on its capacity to recruit and enroll students from historically underrepresented backgrounds.

If students choose to include their SAT or ACT scores in their application to Duke, the university will continue considering those scores. As in the past, self-reported scores will continue to be accepted to evaluate an application. However, scores sent from testing agencies will be required only from students enrolling at Duke.

Moreover, as Duke will be test optional, students who are not native English speakers and students who are not currently enrolled in English-language curricula but who wish to demonstrate further evidence of their English proficiency will be encouraged to take English proficiency tests such as the DET, IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL. Whether  Duke will still be test optional or not, these tests will continue to be recommended by Duke.

What is the Current Acceptance Rate at Duke?

How many students submitted their resumes to Duke for consideration this year? 50 002, breaking the previous record set by the previous year by approximately 1 percent. Of these applicants, 3,085 ultimately gained admission through either Early Decision or Regular Decision (855 through Early Decision, 2,120 through Regular Decision, and 110 ED deferrals who got in this spring). The overall admission rate for Duke University’s Class of 2026, on the other hand, did not establish a new standard.

6.2% of those who applied to Duke for the Class of 2026 were offered admission through either Early Decision or Regular Decision (21.3 percent of ED applicants and 4.6 percent of RD applicants). Also worthy of mention is the fact that Duke University accepted approximately 200 additional students this year in comparison to the previous year.

Two students talking in a table.

To what end? Because the previous year, there were approximately 160 fewer seats available at the institution due to students who had been admitted to the Class of 2024 but had chosen to take gap years instead. The effects of the pandemic trickle down to lower levels.

What are the Admission Requirements for Duke?

Attending Duke University, also known simply as Duke, would fulfill a student’s lifelong dream. This private research university in North Carolina, located in the United States, is known for its commitment to research and is frequently compared to the colleges that are members of the Ivy League.

The admissions process at this school is extremely competitive because of the high academic standards. Due to the rigorous admissions process, Duke University can maintain an exceptional academic setting for all of its students. If you want to get into this university, your application is going to require a significant amount of effort and thoughtful preparation.

To be admitted to Duke University, prospective students must demonstrate that they excel in all aspects of the university’s undergraduate requirements. Due to the relatively low number of students, it admits each year, Duke University is a very selective institution.

As Duke is test optional, aside from test scores, only the most qualified prospective students who come the closest to meeting Duke’s stringent admissions requirements will be accepted. We will go over the undergraduate requirements at Duke in great detail so that you can maximize the effectiveness of your application.

Duke GPA Requirements

Many schools require a minimum GPA, but in most cases, this is just the bare minimum to be met to apply without being immediately rejected. The grade point average that matters is the minimum GPA required to have a chance of getting into the school. To determine this, we look at the school’s current student body’s overall average grade point average.

The typical grade point average at Duke is 4.13.

Female students studying in a table.

Duke University requires a grade point average 4.13, which places you at the top of your class. To compete with other applicants, you must have nearly perfect grades in all your classes. In addition, you must demonstrate that you are capable of easily handling the academic rigors of college by enrolling in challenging classes such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate programs.

It will be difficult for you to improve your grade point average in time for college applications if you are currently a junior or senior. If your grade point average is 4.13 or lower, you will need a higher score on either the SAT or the ACT to compensate for it. Because of this, you will have an easier time competing successfully against other applicants who have higher GPAs than you do.

The minimum SAT score required to attend Duke University in 2022

In 2021, many students will choose to take advantage of the test-optional policy and will not send in their scores from either the SAT or the ACT. If you believe including your score will make your application stand out from the crowd, you should include it.

Unidentified person taking an exam in a desk.

The following is a range of SAT scores that Duke University has accepted over the past three years for the middle fifty percent of students:

Year SAT Score Range
2021 1510-1570
2020 1500-1570
2019 1500-1560

The average SAT score of accepted students at Duke University ranges from 1500 to 1570, with 25 percent of the student body having scores below 1500 and 25 percent above 1570.

This is a section-by-section breakdown of the SAT scores that were required for the middle fifty percent of accepted applicants to Duke University in the year 2021.

SAT Section Average Score (50th Percentile) 25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Math 770 740 800
SAT Reading + Writing 740 710 770
SAT Composite 1510 1450 1570

If you wanted to get into Duke University, having a score of 1570 would put you well above average while having a score of less than 1510 would put you below the average score of accepted students.

The Minimum Required ACT Score to Enter Duke

By the policy of Duke University regarding the SAT, applicants are not required to submit their ACT scores; however, if they choose, they are free to do so. The following is a range of ACT scores that were required by the middle fifty percent of accepted students at Duke University over the past three years:

Year ACT Score Range
2021 34-36
2020 34-35
2019 33-35

The middle 50 percent of students accepted to Duke in 2021 had ACT scores in the range of 34-35, with an average of 34. If you were applying to Duke, having an ACT score of 35 would put you well above average while having a score of 34 would put you below average.

What are the Application Requirements for Duke University?

The Common Application and the Coalition Application are available to prospective students at Duke University. For consideration of your application, we require that you send in everything that is on the following list:

An official copy of the student’s high school transcript

The courses you’ve completed from those that were available to you, your individual grades in academic courses, your overall grade point average, and your rank in your high school class are all considered by Duke (when available). Your school counselor or another authorized school representative must provide an official transcript for each and every piece of academic work you turned in while you were enrolled in high school.

Your guidance counselor must send Duke your first-quarter or marking-period grades with the Common or Coalition Application as soon as they become available or with the application itself if you are applying for Early Decision. This is a requirement for all Early Decision applicants. You should request an unofficial progress report if your school cannot provide us with grades for the first quarter.

In addition, they require that your guidance counselor send in your grades from the first half of the school year along with the Common or Coalition Application by the 15th of February, or as soon as the grades are available.

Students granted admission must request a final official transcript to be included with their Common or Coalition Application and submit it alongside the Final Report form.

The test is not required to receive SAT or ACT scores

Students who apply without submitting scores for either the SAT or the ACT this year will not be penalized in any way when the admissions committee evaluates their applications. As Duke is test optional, the university considers a student’s test scores contingent on whether or not they are included in their complete application materials.

Duke will continue to consider students’ SAT and ACT test scores as part of the application process, and we will accept students’ self-reported scores to evaluate an application. The only case in which those students will be required to send in their scores from testing agencies is if they enroll at Duke.

Students taking an exam on their desks in a classroom.

It is entirely up to you to decide whether or not to have your scores from the SAT or ACT taken into consideration. Your decision to opt out of having your SAT or ACT scores considered will not affect your admission decision. Both the scores that are officially reported and those that are self-reported on the application will be taken into consideration by Duke. It is not required for applicants to send in their essay scores from the ACT or SAT.

If you submit scores from both the ACT and the SAT, Duke will consider the higher score.

Those who are not native English speakers should strongly consider taking an English proficiency exam

Duke highly recommends but does not require, that you take an English proficiency test if you are not a native speaker of English or if you are not currently enrolled in a program that is taught in English as the medium of instruction. If you take the exam more than once, we will use the score you received on the most recent attempt; however, we do not give any preference to one English proficiency test over another.

  • Cambridge C1 Advanced or C2 Proficiency, whichever comes first (Minimum score expected is 180)
  • DUOLINGO (Minimum score expected is 120)
  • IELTS (Minimum band score expected is 7) (Minimum band score expected is 7)
  • PTE ACADEMIC (Minimum score expected is 70)
  • TOEFL (Minimum scores expected)

100 on the paper-based version of the TOEFL

75 on the updated paper-delivered version of the TOEFL exam

You must submit one additional essay besides your Common Application or Coalition Application essay

Both the Common Application and the Coalition Application require applicants to write a personal essay that is one page long and answer several short essay questions that are unique to the Duke application. You have the option of submitting the supplemental essays either alongside or after the other student application components, but you must do so before the application deadline.

Two supplementary essays and

Three letters of recommendation

Each applicant is required to submit three letters of recommendation: one from their guidance counselor, and another two from teachers who have taught them in significant academic courses (English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, or Foreign Language). At least one of the recommendations you submit for your application to the Pratt School of Engineering should come from an educator in mathematics or science.

In addition to the Common Application or Coalition Application, you must include either your non-refundable application fee of $85 or a request for a fee waiver. Students who meet the requirements are eligible to receive fee waivers, which means that in many instances, we will not charge the $85 application fee to students who have a significant amount of unmet financial need.

You can submit an online request for a fee waiver when you submit your Common Application or Coalition Application, and your guidance counselor will receive an email invitation to support your request to waive the application fee.


  • A supplementary letter of recommendation from a previous employer or mentor
  • Interview with an alumnus
  • A creative supplement that was handed in through the SlideRoom Portal

When is the Application Deadline for Duke?

Early and regular decisions are the two application plans that can be chosen for Duke. The plans will differ depending on whether you have decided that Duke will be your top choice for college. Because of the binding nature of early decision plans, if your application to Duke is accepted, you must withdraw your applications to all other universities and enroll at Duke.

Application opens Mid-August
Early Decision Application Deadline November 1
Standardized Tests (optional) November 6
Regular Decision Application Deadline January 5
Standardized Tests (optional) January 31
Early Decision Admission Notification Mid-December
Regular Decision Admission Notification Late March/ Early April
Accept Deadline May 1

If you intend to submit scores from standardized tests as part of your application, whether for early decision or regular decision, you must ensure that you have taken your most recent test no later than the dates that have been provided.

If you need help putting the finishing touches on your early applications, or want some advice on whether or not applying Early Decision or an Early Action is a good option for you, at AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process, including our athletic recruitment program.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.



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