The SAT eliminating both the essay section and subject tests is excellent news for anxious students and families. The reality is that colleges have been demoting the importance of the essay and subjects tests for many years. Last year in January only 20 schools and the University of California (“UC”) still required the essay. All of the other schools, including the highly selective universities, had either dropped the requirement and some only “recommended” it.
The UC finally dropped the SAT essay requirement for a number of reasons.
The essay added to the test cost making it more difficult for lower-income families
The essay was an imperfect assessment tool. How a student performs on a single test day under pressure doesn’t adequately show a student’s ability to clearly communicate through writing.
The test itself did not accommodate students with test-anxiety, neuro or learning differences, disability, or other factors that have nothing to do with a student’s intelligence or ability to succeed in college.
Performance in English courses is much more predictive of a student’s college readiness.
As for the subject tests, by the beginning of the college application season in August 2020, only a handful of colleges still required subject tests, Georgetown and the service academies being the most prominent. Colleges had previously recommended subject tests for limited majors in STEM, especially engineering and computer science. Numerous studies showed that AP tests or course grades were a much stronger predictor of success in college.
In 2020, with Covid causing massive disruption in the ability to take the standardized tests, thousands of US colleges became test blind (won’t consider the scores for application) or test-optional (will look at test scores if submitted, but they are not required). I wrote a blog post about the UC decision to go test blind: https://www.getsmartforcollege.com/post/uc-now-test-blind
The future relevance of the SAT or ACT is in doubt as colleges have seen their application numbers increase among a broader swath of students, giving the colleges a broader pool of students to pick from. This alone may encourage them to continue demoting the standardized tests. The more applications a college receives, the lower their acceptance rate goes as they have a limited number of spaces available. The lower a school’s acceptance rate, the higher its perceived value or “selectivity,” all of which contribute to a college making more money. The tests themselves are inherently skewed. Numerous studies show a very strong correlation between family economics; and differences in the ethnic, rural, and academic atmosphere; as being highly predictive about how well most students perform on the tests, especially for students who can afford the extensive and expensive test-preparation services.
The College Board and the ACT which administer the standardized tests have suffered a huge economic hit as their main product has been inaccessible to millions of students. The same is true of test tutors and test preparation services. The question colleges must ask is whether to continue requiring the costly tests that cause so much anxiety for students and families. If the tests themselves are not a reliable prediction of the ability to thrive at college, are they necessary?
I will be writing a more extensive blog post about the changing standardized test situation in the coming days. If you are interested, please check www.getsmartforcollege.com .
Stay strong, breathe, realize that there are millions of students all facing the same situation. I’d say this is a win for everyone.
If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask at [email protected] .
Independent Educational Consultant–College Counseling