College Board announces end to SAT subject tests and optional essay

College Board to DiscontinueSAT Subject Matter Testsand Essay Section.On January 19, the College Board announcedits decision to terminate two key aspectsof the SAT for students in the United States. .They are the optional essay section, whichboosted the SAT’s total score by 800 points ...... and subject matter tests, a multiple-choiceexam that allowed students to demonstrateproficiency in certain subjects.Although the decision was “accelerated”by the COVID-19 pandemic, it had already been “underway”to reduce and simplify demands on students.In a note published to its website, the College Boardsaid SAT subject tests are “no longer necessary” becauseAP availability has been “expanded.”.The expanded reach of AP and its widespreadavailability for low-income students and studentsof color means the Subject Tests are no longernecessary for students to show what they know, College Board, via statement.U.S. students who are signed up forsubject tests will automatically have theirregistrations canceled and be given a refund. .The optional essay was discontinued becausethe College Board recognized there were “other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing.”.The SAT essay will now only be available instates where it’s required for SAT School Day.In addition, the College Board said it wasworking to create a more “streamlined” SAT thatis “digitally delivered” and “flexible.”.The pandemic has highlighted the importanceof being innovative and adaptive to what liesahead. We are committed to making the SATa more flexible tool, and we are makingsubstantial investments to do so. , College Board, via statement

Move may reflect efforts by testing industry to remain relevant after COVID-19 sidelined exams this year

The College Board announced changes today to its SAT college admissions exam that will affect upcoming test takers, including ending subject testing and the optional essay.

These changes may reflect the College Board’s effort to remain both relevant and required in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has dramatically reduced the number of high school students sitting for the college admissions test.

Many private colleges and state systems suspended their admissions requirement for an ACT or SAT score, including the University System of Georgia, which cited the repeated cancellations of test dates after high schools declined to open their doors for testing amid a pandemic. USG waived its test score requirements for spring, summer and fall 2021 admission to its 26 campuses.

Bob Schaeffer, interim executive director of FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing, said the College Board is essentially acknowledging the decline in campuses requiring the SAT essay or subject tests.

“At the same time, the College Board is circling its (promotional) wagons to protect its two top income-producers, the main SAT and Advanced Placement tests, both of which are facing strong attacks -- the SAT from ongoing administration challenges and the burgeoning test-optional movement -- more than half of all four-year schools have already announced they will not require SAT/ACT for fall 2022 applicants -- and Advanced Placement exams from an ongoing class action litigation seeking half a billion dollars in damages for the severely flawed at-home, on-line, mini-tests rushed into the marketplace in spring 2021,” said Schaeffer in an email response to the AJC.

For its part, the College Board said it’s discontinuing subject tests because most students now have access to AP courses. As with the subject tests, the standardized tests at the end of an AP course can earn a student college credit, if the scores are high enough. The College Board also runs the AP program.

SAT subject tests have historically been recommended by select colleges.

“The subject tests aren’t a big loss in that the very same people at College Board who often write the AP exams write the equivalent subjects’ subject tests, so it’s a bit duplicative, except for ones with no analogue like Math Level 1 & 2. And they were already very niche, where if you weren’t scoring 1450+ on the SAT /33+ on the ACT, the schools that still wanted them weren’t likely attainable and no need to take them,” said Brian Eufinger, co-founder of the Atlanta-based tutoring company Edison Prep.

“APs are a good replacement for these, but this presents a real problem in cases of independent schools where APs are not widely available, or some public schools that offer a limited range of APs,” said Hafeez Lakani, CEO of the New York-based Lakhani Coaching. “In these cases, more scrutiny will now be on grades, potentially increasing pressure on students and teachers from parents to give more As.”

The College Board added an essay to the SAT in 2005. “The reality is that although there was a lot of initial interest in the writing section, it didn’t live up to expectations and as the years went by, colleges became less enthusiastic about it, citing their existing ability to gauge applicants’ writing skills through their own application essays,” said Isaac Botier, executive director of college admissions programs for Kaplan.

Questions were being raised about the value of standardized admissions tests long before the pandemic, especially after the decision of the influential University of California system to suspend its SAT/ACT requirement at its nine prestigious campuses, including UCLA and UC Berkeley.

Here are the changes with explanations from the College Board.

Discontinuing SAT subject tests:

The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability for low-income students and students of color means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know.

We are no longer offering the Subject Tests in the U.S. Students in the U.S. will automatically have their registrations canceled and receive a refund. Because Subject Tests are used internationally for a wider variety of purposes, we will provide two more administrations in May and June of 2021 for students in international locations.

We've reached out to our member colleges, and they will decide whether and how to consider students' Subject Test scores. Students should check colleges' websites for the most up-to-date information on their application policies.

Discontinuing the optional SAT Essay:

This decision recognizes that there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing. At the same time, writing remains essential to college readiness, and the SAT will continue to measure writing and editing skills. The tasks on the SAT Reading and Writing and Language tests are among the most effective and predictive parts of the SAT. Students can take the SAT with Essay through the June 2021 SAT administration.

After June 2021, the Essay will only be available in states where it's required for SAT School Day administrations for accountability purposes. Students registered for the SAT with Essay this spring can cancel the Essay portion at any time, free of charge.

A more streamlined, digitally delivered test is coming:

There's still a clear demand from students to take the SAT to show their strengths to colleges. Most immediately, we're working to provide as many opportunities as possible for students in the class of 2022 to take the SAT this year, including by:

Allocating seats that would have gone to students taking Subject Tests to students who want to take the SAT.

Being prepared to expand capacity for existing administrations and add administrations in the fall if the pandemic continues to impact testing this spring.

All safety requirements that were in place last fall will remain at least through the spring 2021 administrations.

We'll reach out directly to students registered for SAT Subject Tests and the SAT with Essay to inform them of these changes in the coming days and provide support and resources for our K–12 and higher education members.

About the Author

In Other News