Announcement from the College Board

By: Jeffrey Xiang — Editor-in-Chief

The College Board announced on January 19th that SAT Subject Tests and the SAT Essay Section would be canceled.

The SAT Subject Tests involve testing students on topics outside of the English and math skills tested on the SAT Test, such as biology, French, and history. Those tests have already been canceled and cannot be taken domestically. The optional SAT Essay is a separate section of the SAT that many colleges have stopped considering as part of a student’s application. The Essay section can still be taken through the June 2021 administration.

In light of increased accessibility to the College Board’s AP tests, the SAT Subject Tests have decreased in value as they cover similar topics to the AP tests. “We’re reducing demands on students. The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know,” said the College Board in a written statement.

Having once been a required section of the SAT, the Essay section has become less important as colleges have increasingly stopped considering it. “This change simply streamlines the process for students who have other, more relevant opportunities to show they can write an essay as part of the work they’re already doing on their path to college,” added the College Board.

The elimination of SAT Subject Tests and the SAT Essay section comes at the heels of many colleges becoming temporarily test-optional. Although the movement towards being truly test-optional had already been gaining traction, the difficulties in testing during the pandemic kickstarted colleges’ shifts away from standardized tests. 

One major reason for this shift has been the unfair disadvantages placed on low-income students says senior Manjari Kannan. “I think that the College Board made a wise decision to cancel their subject tests. Those who tend to do well on subject tests are ones who have access to the internet, books, and tutoring centers. So standardized testing essentially becomes a competition of who can afford a larger arsenal of preparatory resources,” said Kannan.

The differences in responsibilities also result in disadvantages for low-income students says senior Julia Lin. “The same lower-income students often have more obligations due to their lack of resources. It’s definitely possible to do well on these tests without spending money, but that takes much more time and effort. The students who are already stretched thin between academics and other vital responsibilities simply don’t have that time,” added Lin.

However, senior Rahem Hamid says that there are benefits to standardized testing and reasons why many colleges have not permanently done away with it. “Standards are important. The College Board is by no means a popular enterprise, not by any means—but the SAT, AP exams, and subject tests all give one international standard,” said Hamid.

“Standardized testing has many flaws, no question. But it works—state standardized tests can see which school districts need more resources for example,” added Hamid.

Senior Sam Finklestein agrees with Hamid. “The SAT allows universities to gauge whether students have a firm grip on the fundamentals of mathematics, reading, and writing,” said Finklestein.

For students, Finklestein says that the removal of standardized testing will affect each student differently. “Unfortunately, with less information and data on individuals, I can only assume that those in the admissions office will scrutinize other parts of students’ applications, making an already competitive process even more difficult,” he added.

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