The UAE Ministry of Education has approved a decision allowing higher education institutions not to make EmSat tests compulsory for university admission. Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: The Emirates Standardised Test (EmSAT) is now optional for students applying to universities in the UAE, according to a decision by the Ministry of Education (MoE) for UAE-based higher education institutions (HEIs).

The decision will apply to the academic year 2023– 2024.

EmSAT is a UAE-wide system of standardised computer-based tests based on national standards. It was launched in 2019 by MoE. EmSAT is modelled on various national criteria and internationally approved assessment tools applied across different academic cycles. The tests are given by students applying to UAE universities including three major types of tests – Baseline, Advantage and Achieve Tests.

“It aims to measure the knowledge and skills of students who have reached certain milestones on their educational journey or who are transiting to the higher education stage. The test can be used by HEIs for admission purposes and provides a clear picture of the performance of students in the UAE across diverse academic subjects, benchmarked nationally and internationally,” saidDr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of Education, at a press conference on Thursday

Building a national education system

“The decision is part of the ongoing efforts to develop a national education system that aligns with international best practices. Universities will also decide on the minimum test requirement based on the programme students enrol. We have a significant capacity. For example every time we open up our system, we have a capacity of 30,000 across 172 centres,” he said in response to a query by Gulf News.

The Minister of Education further stressed that HEIs can now choose to use the MoE-designed EmSAT or other approved assessment tools in the country to evaluate students’ capabilities as part of their admission requirements, setting their own minimum scores as long as university education standards are maintained according to academic accreditation standards.

Enhancing flexibility

Al Falasi explained: “The MoE-designed EmSAT is an effective tool for measuring the skills and capabilities of students. We have now given UAE-based universities the choice to use the EmSAT or other approved assessment tools that suit their admission and specialisation criteria. Additionally, we have provided HEIs with the flexibility to set minimum scores for assessment tests in all subjects according to the major to be studied, focusing on relevant student skillsets and labour market requirements.”

Al Falasi said: “The decision is part of the ongoing efforts to develop a national education system that aligns with international best practices. This includes a comprehensive framework of nationally and internationally recognised tests that students must take.”

He said the government’s move has been followed up with multiple consultations between MoE and relevant stakeholders such as HEIs, students and parents. “The aim is to enhance the tertiary education system to best serve the interests of students and their academic future. The ministry will work closely with UAE-based HEIs to regularly review the developments of the decision, in order to achieve the best educational outcomes,” he added.

Modernising educational strategies in the UAE

Al Falasi said: “MoE continues to modernise the educational system in the UAE and devise educational strategies and tools in accordance with best practices and in line with the wise leadership’s directives and the UAE Centennial 2071.”

HEIs have several options to determine students’ proficiency in relevant subjects. These include EmSAT or other assessment tests, centralised exams in one of the international curricula, such as A levels or the International Baccalaureate (IB), or their own admission tests approved by MoE.