Inside College Board’s Purging Of The SAT Subject Test And Essay

The latest news to rock the college admissions world is College Board’s recent announcement that it will no longer offer SAT Subject Tests or SAT with Essay. According to a blog post from the not-for-profit organization, students currently registered for an upcoming Subject Test in the U.S. will automatically have their registration canceled and fees refunded. Students outside the U.S. can still test through June 2021. The SAT with Essay will continue through June 2021.

Starting in June, students will no longer be able to take the SAT Subject Tests and SAT with and Essay. GETTY IMAGES

The reasons for this change and its subsequent ramifications are being picked apart by colleges and admission counselors around the world. In the same blog post announcement, the College Board states that the 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.”

Indeed, the writing was already on the wall for both auxiliary admissions tests. Gradual changes to the college admissions process over the last ten years and the added financial and logistical problems administering the tests during the Covid-19 pandemic are surely factors. Yet, the sudden elimination of testing taken by thousands of college-bound students leaves anxious parents and admissions professionals wondering what’s next.

Effects of Covid-19

Although the number of SAT Subject Tests and SATs with Essay given were already dwindling, the pandemic may have been the final blow. Finding adequate testing sites and working with myriad local and state health regulations to mitigate exposure made additional SAT testing arduous. Since October 2020, more than 275,000 students have been unable to take tests because of pandemic-related facility closures. According to Inside Higher Ed: “With so many students kept from the tests, the vast majority of colleges have either gone test-optional or test-blind, meaning they will not even look at an SAT or ACT score when deciding whether to admit a student.”

Follow the Money

SAT Subject Tests as a whole have been struggling in popularity for over a decade. Fewer post-secondary institutions are requiring SAT Subject Tests or the SAT with Essay. Colleges like MIT and Yale eliminated them from this admissions cycle. The number of Ivy Leagues requiring them is now down to zero.

The tests’ downward spiral plus the dwindling profit made from administering them left the College Board with few options. Despite its non-for-profit status, the College Board is still run as a multi-million-dollar organization.

Spotlight on AP Exams

In the place of a dying product, the College Board is pushing another growing exam as a replacement. In 2019, more than 1.24 million high school students took the Advanced Placement (AP) test. According to its Class of 2019 report, the number of U.S. public high school graduates who took an AP exam during high school has increased 57%. AP is also used in admissions in more than 60 countries as the expansion in AP testing goes international. Increases in the AP tests are also attributed to heightened interest among individual teachers, schools and policymakers.

But as AP testing in the U.S. and abroad is rising, the cost of the tests is also higher. As growth in AP has increased, so has subsidized rates for students of lower socioeconomic status, including $159 million from the College Board itself and 30 states that provide additional funding, according to Inside Higher Ed.

New Standard on Standardized Tests

Despite the changes to the SAT over the last decade and accelerated in 2020 by Covid-19, standardized testing doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Colleges need uniform baseline scores to compare students at different high schools across the country. With the purging of the SAT Subject Tests, the remaining standardized tests, AP, IB, SAT and ACT, will likely be more closely examined by the admissions staff.

Although many colleges went test-optional this admissions cycle due to Covid-19, Moon Prep counselors saw the majority of its students driving long distances to take the SAT and ACT, including some driving more than eight hours and staying in hotels just to sit for the exams.

Concerned parents and students might benefit from taking a competitive stance. From a university standpoint, if a student has a 1550 on the SAT exam and submits this to a “test-optional” school, it could potentially give them an edge over a student who submits no test score. Many students have submitted test scores this admission cycle even though the majority of colleges went test-optional.

Questions Remain

Change always leaves questions and uncertainty about the future. Recent shifts by the College Board and colleges themselves are being felt in admissions offices and around kitchen tables by students in the class of 2021 and beyond. Will the ACT follow suit and drop the writing test? Our prediction is yes, but it will wait long enough so that it seems it is not copying the College Board’s lead. According to Zachary Goldberg, Executive Director at The College Board, there are no future plans for an at-home digital SAT version.

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Originally published at https://www.forbes.com.

Moon Prep guides students through every phase of the university admissions process. (www.moonprep.com)