Slicing Through Money's Mysteries
It’s Time To Ban The SAT And The College Board
Updated: 10/05/2021 by Financial Samurai 81 Comments
I think it's time to ban the SAT and The College Board. The SAT is clearly unfair to kids from poorer families. I mean, how many poor families can afford $3,000+ for a Princeton Review course that teaches kids how to game the SAT? Not many!
When I was 16, I took the SAT test for the first time. My idea of test preparation was going to the library and flipping through a $20 test prep book.
The result? A mediocre 1,040 out of 1,600.
My parents were disappointed so they encouraged me to actually buy a test prep book and this time take all the practice exams since I couldn't write in the library book. After a couple of months studying I took the test again.
The end result? A better-than-average 1,160. However, my goal at the time had been to get a 1,200 or higher because that was the cut off level to be eligible for the best schools according to the data and the recommendation by my college counselor.
Didn't Have The Money To Excel At The SAT
When I asked my parents whether I should take the exam again they said it was up to me. The test was three hours long and cost about $50 in today's dollars to take the exam each time.
When I asked my parents whether I could take one of those private Princeton Review Courses that cost $500, they were not enthusiastic about the idea.
At the time, I couldn't understand why they weren't willing to pay to help me score better. I remember a rich Lebanese classmate telling me his parents paid $1,500 for SAT tutoring, so I thought $500 was a bargain. He ended up getting a 1,360 after he first got a 1,040 like me.
What I now realize as an adult is that money doesn't grow on trees . When you don't have an endless amount of money you've got to find a level where you must accept “good enough.”
Greater Wealth Correlated With Higher SAT Scores
The more time and money you can throw at the SAT, logically, the higher your SAT test score. I'm absolutely sure if my parents had spent $500 – $1,500 on SAT tutoring I would have gotten at least a 1,200 on my SAT.
I'm also sure that if I spent $1,500 and took the SAT exam 30 times, at least one of the top six scores accepted would have been higher than 1,200 as well. Heck, I might have even gotten a 1,400+ and gotten into Harvard to only get rejected by the investment bank I ended up working at!
But due to our financial circumstances, we decided a 1,160 SAT score was good enough for a kid who came to America at 14. I was already aware we didn't have much money given we drove around in a seven-year-old Toyota Camry and lived in a small townhouse.
It's not like I was going to attend a prestigious private university and pay $25,000 a year in tuition, equivalent to $50,000 a year in today's dollars. Instead, I applied to in-state schools: Mary Washington, UVA, and William & Mary. For $2,800 a year, tuition at William & Mary was a bargain based on its ranking, so I went.
The College Board Profit Machine
Despite calling itself a “not-for-profit,” the College Board is one big money-making machine thanks to its monopoly position of administering the PSAT, SAT, and AP exams.
As of 2021, the SAT Reasoning Test plus the essay costs $64.50 ($93.50 if registering late) and the AP exams cost US $94 each. The SAT Subject Tests cost a baseline of $26 with a $22 fee for each test. Further, there are numerous other services available that can be added to the basic costs, including late registration, score verification services, and various answering services that are available.
SAT score reports cost $12 per college for 1–2-week electronic delivery, or 2–4-week paper or disk delivery, depending on what method the school requires ($31 extra for two-day processing).
Even College Board's College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS), a college financial aid application meant to help students pay for college, requires a fee. For the 2019-2020 school year, the price is $25 for the first report sent and an additional $16 for each additional college receiving the information.
Take a look at the College Board's historical profit and loss statements below according to TotalRegistration.net . With $1.1 billion in cash and investments, the College Board is one rich non-profit!
Thanks to hefty profits, the President of the College Board makes over a million dollars a year while several of its executives make over $300,000 a year in salary and benefits.
Maybe if non-profits stopped paying their executives so much money, they'd be more profitable. Or maybe, that's the point of registering as a non-profit – to get favorable tax breaks and pay management big bucks. Cash cows are highly valuable in a low-interest rate environment.
Unfortunately for students, there are no other competitors for the SAT Subject, AP, and PSAT Tests. ACT still is far behind when competing against the main SAT test. When you have a monopoly, you can make excess profits.
The SAT Adversity Score
Conceptually, we know the more time and money you have to dedicate to studying for and taking the SAT test, the higher your test will be.
Now we know for sure there is a correlation with test scores and household income thanks to the College Board's own data of millions of test takers. See the graphic below by the WSJ.
Nobody is going to argue against trying to even the SAT playing field for poorer households. Having parents who attended college or received a graduate degree is a huge competitive advantage because attending college is an expected part of the child's upbringing.
For these college-educated families, all decisions made throughout their child's grade school years are made with an eye on college admission.
The College Board, in all its social engineering wisdom, has decided to create an Adversity Index to help the less fortunate. Check out the multiple variables used to come up with a secret Adversity Index score that will only be reported to colleges and nobody else.
The College Board Should Help The Disabled
I applaud the College Board for trying to create more fairness in its test scores. The variables seem reasonable. But what about one of the biggest variables of all? Having some type of mental, visual, or physical disability that may prevent a student from reading as quickly or understanding as clearly?
Having a disability is one of the most important variables that will make life a little to a lot harder. To not include disability as one of the variables in the Adversity Index is a huge oversight, especially since more than 15% of the world's population has some type of disability.
Further, why keep the Adversity Index score of between 0 – 100 a secret? Secrecy is what creates consternation that the system is rigged .
It would have been much better if the College Board just stuck to household income and the highest level of parental education when highlighting their data to push for the Adversity Index.
Including Race Is Insulting
Finally, why did the College Board and the WSJ have to include race in its Adversity Score promotion? I understand race is not one of the specific variables in the index.
By factoring race into SAT results, the College Board and the WSJ implies Black and Hispanic people are less intelligent than White and Asian people. As a result, unfair racial stereotypes will become sanctioned and spread.
The implication is insulting.
We all know a couple of the biggest factors in scoring well on the SAT are time and money. To imply race as a factor is racist.
It is not your race that allows you to score better or worse on the SAT. It is your circumstance and the environment you've been brought up in over your first 16-17 years that determines your SAT score.
Please do not let others make you believe race determines your SAT test-taking abilities. Whatever your race, know that you are good enough.
I truly do not believe my SAT score would have been any lower if I were White, Black, or Hispanic. And if you are White, Black, or Hispanic, do not believe your SAT score would be higher if you were Asian.
Related: Three White Tenants, One Asian Landlord: A Story About Opportunity, Or Lack Thereof
The College Board Is Dumb Smart
The College Board is all about making money. By creating these statistics and highlighting its secret Adversity Index, not only does it get a lot of publicity, but it creates a lot of anxiety .
One of the reasons why I'm writing this post is because I thought after seeing the first graphic, “ Oh wonderful. I guess my son is going to have an even tougher time getting into college if I am correctly reading between the lines. ”
I started questioning why I decided to get an MBA part-time while already working 60-70 hours a week. Those three years were a killer. I've also started to wonder why the hell am I working, saving, and investing so aggressively to try and generate over $200,000 a year in passive income ?
Spending an extra 20 hours a week for three years to get an MBA part-time and another 25 hours a week writing on Financial Samurai to generate active income to reinvest to generate more passive income were two things I could control .
But something I cannot control is being born a certain race and neither can my son . So why should my son be penalized for being Asian on the SAT and in college admissions? That's not right.
Don't forget. His old man got a mediocre SAT score.
I have little problem if the College Board and Universities want to penalize children of affluent families who have parents with graduate degrees. I draw the line at kids getting penalized for their race.
Organizations making life harder for my son is a huge motivating force to keep my business going forever . I want him to have the option of bypassing such institutions altogether.
Now consider all the other Asian and White families who may not have their own businesses and are thinking they need to spend even more money on SAT tutoring and materials to run in place.
Now think about all the Black and Hispanic families who can now either believe the College Board's pontification that race is a factor in their SAT test results or think they should perhaps spend more money on SAT tutoring and testing because they then might have a better chance at attending college.
What makes me particularly annoyed about the College Board's decision to highlight race in their propaganda is that it may create self-doubt. Succeeding at whatever you want has a lot to do with self-confidence and vanquishing FOPA.
Put In The Effort If You Want To Succeed
For 10 years , I've tried to instill in readers that you deserve to be rich and successful if you put in the effort, no matter your race. The College board is doing the opposite and undermining my efforts.
The College Board is simply race-baiting families into spending more time and money on the test to ameliorate the anxiety they manufactured. It's like spending $100 applying to great preschools and having no chance of getting in .
Unfortunately for the College Board, their attempt to boost its revenue from nervous parents of all socioeconomic classes and races will prove temporary.
The Long Term Trend Is Negative For The SAT And The College Board
Students and parents aren't going to be uninformed forever. As the value of a college degree depreciates due to the lower returns, higher costs, higher student debt, free internet, and an increasingly exposed rigged system, more people will begin to opt out of going to a traditional four-year college.
As more people opt out of a four-year college, fewer people will be taking the SAT.
If there is a way to short the SAT and The College Board, please let me know! I think we could make a lot of money once parents know the gig is up.
At the very least, we could pressure the non-profit to share some of its massive profits by lowering the cost of test-taking and test preparation to allow for more underprivileged kids to score higher.
But when your main purpose as a non-profit is to make lots of profits as a monopoly to pay yourself boatloads of money, it's hard to really make a change for the greater good.
I'm very glad more and more colleges are omitting SAT test scores from their admissions process. The University of California system is the largest school system that began the process. Now many other colleges are following suit!
Related posts about college:
The Wide Implications Of The College Admissions Scandal
Why More Public Schools Will Rank Higher Than Private Schools In The Future
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July 12, 2021 at 6:32 am
They do suck. They have reps that so not speak English well and system often crashes so cannot register properly. They tell you one thing one call and 10min later tell you another.
Agree with below writer! I Hate The College Board
David Coleman can fight me Lily O, Staff Writer|March 27, 2021 I+Hate+The+College+Board The College Board sucks and here’s why. 1) They are an exploitative “non-profit” organization. In 2020, The College Board grossed approximately $1.2 billion USD by exploiting desperate high school students. Nearly 2.2 million students took the SAT in 2020 and were forced to pay a fee of $52 and $68 if they chose to complete the essay as well. Additionally, many students will take the test multiple times to improve their score as attending a prestigious institution is partially contingent on high standardized testing scores. For example, I took the SAT three times outside of school and ended up paying a total of $156. The College Board recognizes that a majority of students will take the SAT at least once and have chosen to capitalize on students’ desperation for a high score. In addition to standardized testing, students are forced to pay outrageous amounts to take AP tests. AP courses count as “college-credits” and represent a high-intensity course load on high school transcripts. If you want to show colleges you’re capable of taking on college-level courses then you bet your a** you’re taking an AP test, especially at AMHS. The issue is, in order to take an AP test you have to pay a fee of $95 per exam and if you order the test late you incur a $40 late fee. Even if you only took one AP class per year in HS, you would still be giving $380 to The College Board to take tests. In addition to this, if you want to send your AP scores to colleges after you receive them you have to pay a score-send fee of $15 PER COLLEGE and pay $11.25 to send your SAT scores if you don’t use your “4 free sends” when you register for the test. If you don’t want to blindly send your AP and SAT scores to schools then you might end up paying an arm and a leg just to apply for higher education. The College Board wants you broke before you even get a chance to be accepted. “ The College Board wants you broke before you even get a chance to be accepted. ” 2) You can’t get into college without them… and they know that. This one is quite possibly the most infuriating aspect, The College Board has a monopoly. It is essentially impossible to apply to college without them. Even if you somehow make your way through high school without taking a single AP class or taking the SAT, a large majority of schools will require you to submit a CSS profile in addition to FAFSA if you want to be eligible for non federal financial aid. And guess what… there’s a fee! It will cost you $25 to fill out the CSS profile and send it to one school. If you want to send it to more, it’s an additional $16 per college. There is no way around it, one way or another every high school student will eventually be roped into forking over their money. 3) Finances Finally, I think it is time to dive a little deeper into the financial aspect of The College Board and where all the money they steal from students goes. First off, the CEO of college board, David Coleman, supposedly makes about $1 million dollars a year. That’s right, MILLION. Additionally, many college board executives will take home about $300,000 – $500,000 a year. The average household income in the United States is roughly $68,000 and the average cost of college is about $20,000 – $30,000 per year. The College Board uses lower income students and families to make a profit and include their employees in the 1%. The company has no concern for the students it was designed for and could care less if simply applying to college makes it harder to put food on the table. When America decided that a college education would be the baseline to acquire a successful career, The College Board should’ve recognized it as well. Getting a higher education should not be a luxury when it has become a necessity. Overall, The College Board is a shady “non-profit” monopoly that has little to no concern for students or their families. They find money in any way they can through score sends, testing fees, cancellation fees, late fees, etc because they recognize there is no way around it. I am disgusted by their practices, and yet I probably gave them over $1000 because I want to go to college. It is essentially impossible to boycott The College Board, so sign every petition that you can, leave them snarky comments on Instagram, make your voice heard and tell them how much they suck. I’m not one to support bullying, but maybe if we hate on the company just enough… they’ll see the error of their ways (but probably not). At the end of the day, money is what makes the world go round, and it’s difficult to make money without going to college
May 22, 2019 at 11:44 am
I have to admit, as a black man with kids, I am in favor of the adversity index and implication that race engineering is the end goal for the index.
My family makes about $800,000 a year, and I have two sons. If they can get an advantage on the SAT score and college admissions, while also being taken care of by me and their mom, that’s great for my family.
You can’t always have winners in society. It’s time for America to purposefully make African-Americans winners again. White people had their time already and Asian people will just have to wait another generation or two.
May 22, 2019 at 4:41 pm
LOL…very good chance the Russians have infiltrated your message board to stir the pot with this one…
May 21, 2019 at 10:17 am
Sam, the SAT Preparation book cost $20 back when you took the test, and is still today cheaper than the $50 re-test fee you paid to take another bite of the apple. You owe your parents $30.
One good troll deserves another, FS.;-) Seriously, people are different, and the attachment to tribal identity is proof. We all want the best for everyone and for equal opportunities for everyone. So when outcomes are different by race, income, gender, parents education level, etc. the difference is hard to accept. Correlation doesn’t indicate causation.
The SAT test has been retooled and rebaselined multiple times in the past few decades, and it makes no difference. Racial gaps still appear, and even become greater. Here’s another example of differences:
Look at the top 20 countries for IQ, which are monocultures with minimal ethnic diversity. Look at the bottom 20 countries, also monocultures with minimal ethnic diversity. What do you observe? Is this a surprise? Is it bad?
Would doing away with IQ tests help make things more equal? Would doing away with SAT and ACT tests make things more equal? Would the differences and stereotypes go away?
May 21, 2019 at 4:48 pm
Correlation doesn’t indicate causation. Except when it comes to IQ and….climate? Clearly no imbedded bias here…
May 21, 2019 at 8:49 am
This is sooo stupid. This will just stack the system ever more in favor of the rich because they will have the resources to game the system. With the system, here’s what to do if you have money:
1. Buy a house in poor crime ridden neighborhood and make that your primary address for a few years. You are now officially a poor resident. Side consequence is pushing out existing residents. Yay gentrification? If you’re super rich, you can buy a whole apartment building and keep the units empty and unkempt. Now you have low vacancy AND you have lower property values. After your kids take the SAT, you sell the property (possibly to another rich family) and get all your money back.
2. Temporarily get a divorce just as your kids are taking the SAT. After your kids take the SAT, get remarried. Boom, single parent. Give sole custody to a spouse with no income. Now your low income! ESL – LMAO yeah English was my second language, 25 years ago. But who cares, I’m ESL now!
3. High school environment – Home school with private tutor for Freshman and Sophomore years. BAM! No AP at home. No matching. Take the SAT before Junior year. After kids take the SAT, enroll in a private school with AP/IB or whatever and proceed as usual.
May 23, 2019 at 9:45 am
I saw all three in high school
1. A pair of very wealthy physicians sent their daughter to an inner city school near their job becuase the school had low schools and was in an economically depressed area, making it far easier to stand out and have the “rags-to-ritches” story despite going home to very posh neighborhood. She had extra tutors to make sure she knew everything so the only real risk was the safety of the area. 2. My mother got married and married well right before my senior year of college. Being the good citizen I am, I was obligated to put the official amount on the joint tax documents which meant that I was disqualified for pretty much any need based aid despite not actually getting a dime from my father (alcoholic who surprisingly isn’t in jail) or stepfather. Only after college did I learn that nobody really verifies income so plenty of people just used one parent or similar. 3. I saw much the same. The parents “in-the-know” and with money started all the way in middle school if not earlier. The top 10 people in my high school class could not be beat even with straight As because they were taking high school courses in middle school during the school and during the summer. Neither option was publicly offered by ANY school in my district.
These tests can be gamed in all sorts of ways. I am pretty sure there were more than a few Chinese classmates who paid someone to take their tests because they lacked very, very, very basic skills compared to other international and native students. The admissions scandal we recently saw is just the tip of the iceberg in the USA, but is a quietly accepted practice elsewhere.
And then there’s the wonderful SSAT for elite private schools and its junior equivalents. The craziness begins at preschool.
My mother made an apt point. “If you have the money, why not do what the Kusher’s did and just donate your way in?”
May 29, 2019 at 9:07 am
It is rational to assume that if you have the money, you will do whatever you can to buy yourself more access and an easier life for you and your kids. We are seeing this play out in real time and I don’t think it’ll ever change.
May 21, 2019 at 5:01 am
The race conversation that you once again stroke is one sided and ignores what blacks, native americans and latinos typically face in terms of racism that aren’t consistently faced by other minorities. Think about the unbalanced incarceration rates, police brutality, educational bias amongst teaching professionals based on implicit racism as early as age 5. These are MUCH more serious issues than college entrance. d Drop affirmative action based on race once we correct our judicial system & implicit racism. Come on Sam, the data is all there and I know you’re better than this?
For example, why don’t you ever comment on your son not having to worry about being pulled over and harrassed by the police? How about the fact that he’s a male? Being a definitely has it’s advantages in university admission in comparison to a female. Sam, be more open and less one sided.
May 21, 2019 at 6:42 am
Hi John – Because I HAVE been pulled over and harassed by police MULTIPLE times. I even had the police come to my house and yell at me and hold a gun about to draw for not showing my ID that I own my own house.
Are you saying Asians don’t face racism as a minority in America as well? Are you saying the discrimination I face or other Asians face feels different and less that what other minorities face?
What race are you and what makes you think Asians don’t face racism in America? I do want to understand why there is a common disregard for the plight of Asians in America, but not all other minorities. And do want to understand why we can’t focus on upbringing disadvantages instead.
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May 21, 2019 at 4:07 pm
To both Sam and Andy-
I NEVER said asians don’t face racism, please read my post. I’ve actually stood up for asians (and non asians) who’ve encountered racism from others when they’re not present. I have ZERO tolerance for racism. Also, zero disregard for the racism that asians face. However, I did mention the actual Data that exists amongst the other those minorities (black, native Americans & Hispanics) within the criminal justice system (more time for the same crimes as non minorities) , education, etc. And unfortunately failed to mention asian.
However Sam, this mirrors exactly what you’ve done on the asian front for different topics while failing to mention data for other ethnicities, Right? Sam, you also keep mentioning bringing up opportunities for disadvantaged, but then you’re against this adversity measure for poorer families followed by an false claim that it’s the measure is racist?
I’ve reread your post and still can’t figure out why you had to go the “this is race based affirmative route” on this one when it’s clearly not race based. However, it’s what “you’re reading and seeing” between the lines.
May 22, 2019 at 11:45 am
Right on my brother! We need to do more to help black people in this country. If it ends up hurting other races in the process, then so be it. We have suffered enough.
I worked hard to become an executive and make multiple six figures a year. I should be rewarded and so should my children.
May 22, 2019 at 4:52 am
@sam, it’s okay that you didn’t post my initial reply but please clarify a few items: – i never said Asians don’t face racism, but i did mention that the data shows it’s in fact at different levels for different situations. Similarly to how native Americans face higher levels of racism than African americans within the judicial system and also have higher chance of being murdered by cops than any other race. – discrimination is discrimination in and I have Zero tolerance for racism which is why I always plead that you look at the full picture. It’s no different how your posts consistently target african Americans and Hispanics while failing to include native Americans. – my nationality is African American and part native american; for what its worth my spouse is half asian and we now have a child who’s 1/4 asian – i love looking out for the disadvantaged as I grew up surrounded by poverty, however i struggle to see this in your post. For example the adversity index tries to do this but yet you take the conversation to being about racial division amongst minorities?
Best of success
May 21, 2019 at 6:50 am
How is Sam racially biased when he is encouraging the mega profit SAT and colleges to LOOK BEYOND RACE when making an objective decision about a student?
It makes no sense to say that every other minority except for Asians experience racism. That’s either ignorant or a racist statement.
Have you ever thought that perhaps the reason why the incarceration rates are the way they are is because people of certain races commit more crimes than other races?
I truly hope you’re not some white guy who has no idea of what it’s like to be a minority in America. But your last statement makes it obvious you’re ignorant.
Asians face racism in America all the time. Just because Asians aren’t as vocal about racism and decides to get on with it more doesn’t mean racism doesn’t exist.
May 21, 2019 at 5:56 pm
@andy: my last statement about sams son concern for the cops could’ve been better stated as potentially having less concern for being pulled over “statistically speaking”. However the fact that males have an advantage in college admissions vs equally qualified females process is true. Also, the fact that many of Sam’s racially based posts are one side are also true. Nothing wrong with that because it’s his site, but it’s just the truth.
May 21, 2019 at 6:47 pm
@andy: please indicate where the sat is factoring in race?
May 22, 2019 at 11:26 am
“Drop affirmative action based on race once we correct our judicial system & implicit racism.”
I want it all to be corrected, but only by improving things for the folks that need it. I reject any plan that involves anyone willingly agreeing to being second-class citizens for even a few generations, let alone some subjective measure that may never be agreed on.
You don’t get to higher places by stepping on other people who mean you no harm, and never did any to you.
May 20, 2019 at 7:53 pm
I’m not as awesome, I only scored 1400 on the SAT, pretty low in my asian community of 1500s and perfects, but in the end, we went to each of our respective state schools (for my friends living in CA). The only difference between me and my 1500s counterparts was the scholarship offered. I’m fine with it because my family saved up for college (we’re middleclass) and we live pretty close to our state college, close enough to commute everyday. In the end, I can get the same opportunities as 1500s kids and more if I actively seek to.
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College Board Will No Longer Offer SAT Subject Tests or SAT with Essay
- January 19, 2021
- Last Updated September 15, 2021
As students and colleges adapt to new realities and changes to the college admissions process, College Board is making sure our programs adapt with them. We’re making some changes to reduce demands on students.
We are no longer offering SAT Subject Tests ™
We’ve reached out to our member colleges and they’ll 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. Students will still be able to get and send Subject Test scores from previous administrations, just as they do for the SAT. Learn how
We've also discontinued the optional SAT Essay
The Essay is only available in states where it’s required as part of SAT School Day administrations. Students scheduled to take the SAT on a school day should check with their school about whether the Essay will be included.
Writing remains essential to college readiness and the SAT will continue to measure writing and editing skills, but there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing, and the SAT will continue to measure writing throughout the test. The tasks on the SAT Reading and Writing and Language sections are among the most effective and predictive parts of the SAT.
What is the current 2021-2022 SAT administration schedule?
You can find SAT test dates and deadlines here .
Why did you discontinue SAT Subject 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.
I’ve already taken SAT Subject Tests. Will colleges still accept those scores?
We’ve reached out to our member colleges, and they’ll 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. You'll still be able to get and send Subject Test scores from previous administrations, just as you can for the SAT. Learn how
How long will score sending for SAT Subject Tests be an option?
Students can continue sending their Subject Test scores.
How can I show my skills in specific subject areas without the opportunity to take SAT Subject Tests?
We’ve continued to enrich and expand access to AP courses, which let students showcase their skills through challenging coursework. Many colleges already use AP course participation and exam score as indicators of a student’s ability and interest in a particular subject area. And colleges also have access to information about student performance in key subject areas through their SAT scores, high school transcript, course selection, and other measures. Check directly with the colleges you plan to apply to for alternative ways to strengthen your applications.
Why are you discontinuing the optional SAT Essay?
We’re adapting to respond to the changing needs of students and colleges. 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.
Will colleges still consider Essay scores if I submit them?
Check with the colleges you’re interested in about their policies. If you take the SAT with Essay, colleges may consider your scores as part of their holistic review process. Students registered for the SAT with Essay can cancel the Essay portion if they choose to.
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Course: SAT > Unit 7
The sat essay: overview.
- The SAT Essay: What to expect
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The SAT Essay
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- evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
- reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
- stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed."
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the college board has ended the sat essay.
On January 19th, 2021, the CollegeBoard announced that it would stop offering the optional SAT Essay after June 2021.
This is a big change, and students are curious about how this may impact the college admissions process. In this article, we’ll cover these new changes to the SAT Essay testing process and help you understand what they mean for you.
Here’s what you need to know.
The College Board No Longer Offers the SAT Essay
As of June 2021, the College Board will no longer offer the SAT Essay to high school students. That means high schoolers will no longer be able to schedule or take the SAT Essay exam after the 2021 June SAT date (June 5, 2021).
There’s one exception to the no-more-SAT-Essay rule. If you’re required to take the SAT Essay as part of the high school graduation requirements for your state, you may still have to take the essay test!
States that require students to take the SAT to graduate also participate in SAT School Days . SAT School Days is when students are able to take the SAT for free during...well, a school day! The College Board will continue to administer the SAT Essay to students on School Days in participating states.
There’s a good chance that these states may drop the SAT Essay requirement in the future. Be sure to check with your high school administrators or guidance counselors for the most up-to-date information on whether you have to take the SAT Essay to graduate.
SAT Essay Options for Currently Registered Students
If you’re already scheduled to take the SAT Essay exam in 2021, you have a few options going forward.
First, if you've already registered for the SAT with Essay in March, May, or June of 2021, you can still take the essay test! You can write your essay, have it scored, and send it to your colleges...no changes necessary.
But you might decide you no longer need to take the SAT Essay as a result of these new changes. The College Board is letting students who’ve already registered for the SAT Essay cancel their registrations free of charge.
To do this, just log into your College Board online account and cancel the essay! In order to avoid any additional charges, make sure you cancel your SAT Essay test prior to the registration deadline.
Why End the SAT Essay?
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a tough year for both high school students and the College Board. Not only were SAT tests cancelled repeatedly, many universities dropped the SAT requirement entirely for 2020-2021 ...and in some cases, beyond .
In their official statement about dropping the SAT Essay test, the College Board acknowledged how hard circumstances have been for high school students because of the pandemic. The College Board explains that by dropping the SAT Essay, they're helping to “reduce demands on students” both now and in the future.
While the desire to help students is sincere, experts point out that the College Board may have made this decision for more practical reasons as well. In his article for Forbes , journalist Akil Bello points out that most universities don't require SAT Essay scores as part of the admissions process. That means the SAT Essay has been optional for most college-bound students.
As a result, many students had already stopped taking the SAT Essay —in 2020, only 57% of SAT test takers also took the essay portion of the exam. So the College Board may have dropped the SAT Essay for financial and operational reasons, too.
What Does This Change Mean for Students?
Starting in June 2021, students taking the SAT will no longer be able to take the SAT Essay exam (unless it’s part of an SAT School Days requirement).
Not being able to take the SAT Essay is most impactful for students who’d planned to use their essay scores to make their applications stand out. For instance, if you’d hoped your essay score would help overcome a low SAT Math score —or even a less-than-stellar GPA—then you’ll have to make your college application stand out in other ways. We recommend making sure your application has a spike , but you can also add extracurricular activities to your resume, boost your GPA , and raise your SAT score !
Additionally, if your college required the SAT Essay in the past, you may see some differences in the admissions process. Some schools may simply drop the essay requirement, while other schools may ask you to submit additional writing samples to fulfill that requirement.
The same will be true for departments that used the SAT Essay to determine whether to admit students . Students applying to degree programs that involve lots of writing—like English, History, or Journalism—may end up having to submit additional samples, or even take a department-specific placement test.
But what if the colleges you’re applying to never required the SAT Essay? If your dream school didn’t require the SAT Essay or consider SAT Essay scores, this change won’t really affect you. The admissions processes at these schools aren’t impacted by the College Board’s new policies, so your chances of getting in are the same as before the College Board’s announcement.
Our advice? Check with your potential schools to see how the new SAT Essay policies will affect your admissions process and chances. Admissions counselors will be happy to help you out!
- Now that the SAT Essay test is going away, you’ll need to think of new ways to make your college application stand out. Here are seven things that look amazing on college apps.
- Another great way to stand out from the crowd? Make a perfect score on the SAT . That’s not an impossible goal if you follow our advice to getting a perfect score.
- Maybe you’re new to the SAT in general. Don’t worry! Here’s a primer on the SAT to get you started.
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.
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The Optional SAT Essay: What to Know
Tackling this section of the SAT requires preparation and can boost some students' college applications.
Even though an increasing number of colleges are dropping standardized test requirements, students who must write the SAT essay can still stand to gain from doing so. (Getty Images)
Although the essay portion of the SAT became optional in 2016, many students still chose to write it to demonstrate strong or improved writing skills to prospective colleges.
In June 2021, the College Board opted to discontinue the SAT essay. Now, only students in a few states and school districts still have access to — and must complete — the SAT essay. This requirement applies to some students in the SAT School Day program, for instance, among other groups.
Whether or not to write the SAT essay is not the biggest decision you will have to make in high school, but it is certainly one that requires thought on your part. Here are three things you should know about the 50-minute SAT essay as you decide whether to complete it:
- To excel on the SAT essay, you must be a trained reader.
- The SAT essay begs background knowledge of rhetoric and persuasive writing.
- A growing number of colleges are dropping standardized test requirements.
To Excel on the SAT Essay, You Must Be a Trained Reader
The SAT essay prompt never comes unaccompanied. On the contrary, it follows a text that is about 700 words long or approximately one page. Before test-takers can even plan their response, they must carefully read and – ideally – annotate the passage.
The multifaceted nature of the SAT essay prompt can be distressing to students who struggle with reading comprehension. But the good news is that this prompt is highly predictable: It always asks students to explain how the author builds his or her argument. In this case, "how” means which rhetorical devices are used, such as deductive reasoning, metaphors, etc.
Luckily, the author’s argument is usually spelled out in the prompt itself. For instance, consider this past SAT prompt : “Write an essay in which you explain how Paul Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience that natural darkness should be preserved.”
Due to the essay prompt’s straightforward nature, students should read the passage with an eye toward specific devices used by the author rather than poring over “big ideas.” In tour SAT essay, aim to analyze at least two devices, with three being even better.
The SAT Essay Begs Background Knowledge of Rhetoric and Persuasive Writing
Since your SAT essay response must point to specific rhetorical devices that the author employs to convince the reader, you should make it a point to intimately know 10-15 common ones. The more familiar you are with rhetorical devices, the faster you will become at picking them out as you read texts.
Once you have read the passage and identified a handful of noteworthy rhetorical devices, you should apply many of the same essay-writing techniques you already use in your high school English classes.
For instance, you should start by brainstorming to see which devices you have the most to say about. After that, develop a concise thesis statement, incorporate quotes from the text, avoid wordiness and other infelicities of writing, close with an intriguing conclusion, and do everything else you could imagine your English teacher advising you to do.
Remember to always provide evidence from the text to support your claims. Finally, leave a few minutes at the end to review your essay for mistakes.
A Growing Number of Colleges Are Dropping Standardized Test Requirements
In recent years, some of America’s most prominent colleges and universities – including Ivy League institutions like Harvard University in Massachusetts, Princeton University in New Jersey and Yale University in Connecticut – have made submission of ACT and SAT scores optional.
While this trend began as early as 2018, the upheaval caused by COVID-19 has prompted many other schools to adopt a more lenient testing policy, as well.
Advocates for educational fairness have long expressed concerns that standardized admissions tests put underprivileged students at a disadvantage. In light of the coronavirus pandemic , which restricted exam access for almost all high school students, colleges have gotten on board with this idea by placing more emphasis on other factors in a student’s application.
To assess writing ability in alternative ways, colleges now place more emphasis on students’ grades in language-oriented subjects, as well as college application documents like the personal statement .
The fact that more colleges are lifting their ACT/SAT requirement does not imply that either test or any component of it is now obsolete. Students who must write the SAT essay can still stand to gain from doing so, especially those who wish to major in a writing-intensive field. The essay can also demonstrate a progression or upward trajectory in writing skills.
The SAT essay can give a boost to the college applications of the few students to whom it is still available. If the requirement applies to you, be sure to learn more about the SAT essay and practice it often as you prepare for your upcoming SAT.
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Retooling During Pandemic, the SAT Will Drop Essay and Subject Tests
By dropping or suspending the requirement that applicants submit standardized test scores, colleges have cut into the College Board’s business model.
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By Anemona Hartocollis , Kate Taylor and Stephanie Saul
In the latest sign of trouble for the standardized testing empire that has played a major role in college applications for millions of students, the organization that produces the SAT said on Tuesday that it would scrap subject tests and the optional essay section , further scrambling the admissions process.
The move comes as the testing industry has been battered by questions about equity and troubled by logistical and financial challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.
Critics saw the changes not as an attempt to streamline the test-taking process for students, as the College Board portrayed the decision, but as a way of placing greater importance on Advanced Placement tests, which the board also produces, as a way for the organization to remain relevant and financially viable.
“The SAT and the subject exams are dying products on their last breaths, and I’m sure the costs of administering them are substantial,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, the vice provost for enrollment management at Oregon State University.
The main SAT, taken by generations of high school students applying to college, consists of two sections, one for math and the other for reading and writing. But since at least the 1960s, students have also had the option of taking subject tests to show their mastery of subjects like history, languages and chemistry. Colleges often use the tests to determine where to place students for freshman courses, especially in the sciences and languages.
But the College Board said the subject tests have been eclipsed by the rise of Advanced Placement exams. At one point, A.P. courses were seen as the province of elite schools, but the board said on Tuesday that “the expanded reach of A.P. and its widespread availability for low-income students and students of color means the subject tests are no longer necessary.”
More than 22,000 schools offered A.P. courses in the 2019-20 school year, up from more than 13,000 two decades earlier, according to the College Board. There are some 24,000 public high schools in America.
The College Board said it would discontinue the essay section on the main SAT test because “there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing,” including, it said, the test’s reading and writing portion. The essay section was introduced in 2005 , and was considered among the most drastic changes to the SAT in decades. It came amid a broader overhaul of the test, which included eliminating verbal analogies that were a mainstay of SAT-prep courses.
Admissions officers hoped the essay would give them a way to look at original samples of students’ writing, to better evaluate their skills. It came to be criticized, however, for promoting an overly formulaic approach to writing, and was made optional in 2016 as part of another redesign.
In recent years, the SAT has come under increasing fire from critics who say that standardized testing exacerbates inequities across class and racial lines. Some studies have shown that high school grades are an equal or better predictor of college success.
More than 1,000 four-year colleges did not require applicants to submit standardized test scores before the pandemic, and the number rose — at least temporarily — as the coronavirus forced testing centers to close and made it difficult for many students to safely take the test.
Perhaps the biggest hit came in May, when, following a lawsuit from a group of Black and Hispanic students who said the tests discriminated against them, the influential University of California system decided to phase out SAT and ACT requirements for its 10 schools, which include some of the nation’s most popular campuses.
The College Board acknowledged that the coronavirus had played a role in the changes announced on Tuesday, saying in a statement that the pandemic had “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce the demands on students.”
But David Coleman, the chief executive of the College Board, a nonprofit organization that in the past has reported more than $1 billion a year in revenue, said that financial concerns were not behind the decisions, and that despite the growing number of schools making the SAT optional, demand for the test was still “stronger than some would expect.”
He said the organization’s goal was not to get more students to take A.P. courses and tests, but to eliminate redundant exams and reduce the burden on high school students. “Anything that can reduce unnecessary anxiety and get out of the way is of huge value to us,” he said.
Some experts, though, said eliminating the subject matter tests could have the opposite effect, increasing pressure on students to take A.P. courses and exams, especially in their junior year, so credits can be submitted in time for college admissions decisions.
Saul Geiser, a senior associate at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley, said the move would “worsen the perverse emphasis on test prep and test-taking skills at the expense of regular classroom learning.”
Mr. Geiser said that mastering writing skills and subject matter “is the best predictor of how students perform in college.”
Experts in college preparation said the announcement, while a major change, was partly just a recognition of a shifting environment for standardized testing. Jonathan Richard Burdick, vice president for enrollment at Cornell, said the “handwriting was on the wall for both the subject exams and the essay option long before the pandemic struck.”
Harris Zakarin, part-owner of the test preparation company Regents Review, said consideration of the tests had diminished in recent years. “From my experience, over the past couple of years, it has become extremely rare for a college to require a student to submit an essay with the SAT,” he said.
Mr. Zakarin said he expected that the SAT’s rival, the ACT, would follow suit and eliminate its writing component. The ACT said in a statement that it continuously evaluated demands for its products.
At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, officials dropped the SAT essay requirement in 2016 because they saw it as an undue burden on students, including an added fee, said Mike Drish, the university’s director of first-year admissions.
Mr. Drish said the university evaluated students’ writing preparedness based on their grades in English classes, as well as teacher recommendations and essays submitted as part of the admissions process.
Mark Rosenbaum, director of the California-based pro bono law firm Public Counsel, which represented the plaintiffs who sued the University of California over standardized testing, said the College Board’s decision was a step in the right direction but did not go far enough.
“Everyone knows that A.P. tests are also discriminatory in terms of student access to those tests and preparation for those tests,” Mr. Rosenbaum said. “It’s not like it eliminates racial and class discrimination.”
In addition to dropping the essay and subject tests, the College Board said it would continue to develop a version of the SAT test that could be administered digitally — something it tried and failed to do quickly with an at-home version last year after the pandemic shut down testing centers. The board gave no time frame for when a digital version of the SAT might be introduced, but said it would be given at testing centers by live proctors.
There were about 2.2 million registrations for weekend SAT tests in 2020 (some students take it more than once), but because of the pandemic, only 900,000 such tests were taken.
Anemona Hartocollis is a national correspondent, covering higher education. She is also the author of the book, “Seven Days of Possibilities: One Teacher, 24 Kids, and the Music That Changed Their Lives Forever.” @ anemonanyc
Stephanie Saul covers national politics. Since joining The Times in 2005, she has also written about the pharmaceutical industry, education and the illicit foreign money fueling Manhattan’s real estate boom. @ stefsaul
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Get a personalised university shortlist based on your preferred course, the sat announces cancellation of essay & subject tests.
- Read Time 7 mins
- Updated On November 16, 2022
- Published In SAT 👩🎓
The results of the SAT, a standardised test, are essential for your entry to some of the most prestigious universities in the USA and Canada. It assesses an individual’s ability to solve mathematical equations and speak the English language. Over the years, the SAT has seen its fair share of alterations. Since the coronavirus hit our lives, we’ve been left to adapt to the realities of the world, especially students wanting to get admission into well-known universities. The College Board, the organisation which administers the SAT test , is also ensuring the universities adapt to the times. That is why they’re making some changes to reduce the demands of students as well. One of the major changes from their end is cancelling the SAT Easy test. This decision by the Board was taken last year. In this blog, we’ll cover this new change, what it means for the students, and how the SAT Essay Cancelled affect college admissions.
Table of Contents
SAT Essay Cancelled
As per the notification by the College Board, they will no longer offer the SAT Essay to high school students. It means that school students will no longer be able to schedule to take the SAT Essay exam. However, there’s an exception to this rule. If a student is required to take the SAT Essay exam as part of the high school graduation requirements, they may take the test. Although, there’s a good chance that the states requiring this will drop the requirement in the future. As a student, you must be up to date with the latest updates by staying in touch with your guiding counsellors or high school administrators.
SAT Subject Test Discontinued
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Like the SAT Essay, the College Board has also decided to cancel the SAT Subject Test. As per the Board, this test doesn’t offer the same value that it once did. The Board used to offer subject tests on topics like grammar, world history, Latin, modern Hebrew, and math.
Reasons For Discontinuing SAT Essay
As mentioned above, the Covid-19 pandemic has been hard for everyone. However, it was especially tough on high school students and the College Board. The SATs were cancelled repeatedly, while many institutes dropped the SAT requirement entirely in the 2020-2022 phase of admissions. The College Board felt that dropping the SAT essay would help reduce the demands for students for now and in the future. Many experts feel that this decision is also a timely and practical one because most universities don’t require SAT Essay scores as part of the admissions process. Many students had already started dropping the SAT Essay test before this notification. In 2020, hardly 57% of students took the essay section with the SAT exam. That is why it’s believed the College Board may have dropped the SAT essay for operational and financial reasons, as well. Getting rid of the essay portion makes the SAT test entirely multiple-choice, allowing automated grading to occur. As a result, the Board would not have to pay the essay scorers. Moreover, it would also pave the way for a level playing field. Many felt that SAT only catered to the privileged and affluent students. Getting rid of the SAT Essay and subject test requirements may enhance perceived accessibility in standardised testing. For similar reasons, the ACT might end up cancelling the ACT Essay, as well.
Reasons For Discontinuing SAT Subject Test
The main reason behind discontinuing the SAT Subject test is the expanded reach of AP exams. With each passing year, AP tests have become more widespread and cover a range of subjects. Moreover, eliminating the subject tests will open seats to students who need to take the SAT and haven’t had the chance to do so due to the coronavirus pandemic. The widespread availability of the AP exam had led to most universities eliminating the subject test requirements. Plus, the language subject tests were mainly being taken by native speakers. So, colleges were not getting vital information in making admission decisions through this test.
Impact of Cancellation on the Students
To put it simply, students wouldn’t be able to take the SAT Essay test unless it is a part of an SAT School Days Requirements. This notification is most impactful for students who had planned to use their essay scores to make their applications stand out from the crowd. For instance, there have been students in the past who’d hoped their essay scores would help overcome a low overall GPA or math score. However, that wouldn’t be an option for the students anymore.
Impact of Cancellation on Admission Process
If your college required the SAT essay in the past, there are going to be various changes that one may see in the admission process. While some universities or schools may drop the essay requirement, others may ask you to submit additional writing samples to fulfil that requirement. Something similar is also possible with departments that used the SAT Essay for the selection process. So, students applying to literature degrees or programmes that require lots of writing (rigorous writing skills) may have to submit additional college essays samples or take a department-specific placement test. However, this decision likely wouldn’t change anything for students applying to universities where the SAT Essay wasn’t a college admissions process requirement in the first place. The reason is that the admission process isn’t affected by the College Board’s policies.
Next Moves to be Made by the Students
Students should check with their potential universities and schools about the admission process. It’ll allow them to see how the new SAT Essay policies will affect their chances and college application. In such a scenario, admission counsellors can be a great help. Some colleges might ask for AP subject test scores or minimum grades in place of subject tests in specific courses from an applicant. SAT Exam For 2022
Encouraged by the coronavirus pandemic, the College Board has been making substantial investments in making the SAT more inclusive and relevant. That is why last year, the College Board announced to discontinue the SAT Essays and Subject Test. This decision was made by the board to reduce the demand on students for both the present and the future. Plus, they feel that these sections do not offer the same value that they once did. Many colleges had already removed SAT essays scores as a selection criterion some years back. Moreover, AP tests have become widely available and cover various subjects, making them a potent replacement for SAT subject tests. They are of greater importance than ever. While the SAT Essay was an optional essay, the decision of discontinuing it is a major one. For further info on the SAT, like the registration deadline and test date information, book a free counselling session on LeapScholar today .
Frequently Asked Questions
Will colleges still consider Essay scores if I submit them?
They might. It will vary from college to college. That is why it is best to check with the colleges that you are interested in studying about their application process. Some may consider or require an optional SAT essay as part of their holistic review process.
How can I show my skills in specific subject areas without the opportunity to take SAT subject tests?
Many colleges use AP scores as an indicator of a student’s ability and interest in a particular subject area. Plus, colleges also have access to the performance of an applicant in specific subjects areas through SAT scores, ACT scores, and high school transcripts, amongst others. So, you can check directly with the colleges you will apply to for alternative ways to support your application.
How can I make my college application stand out now that the SAT Essay is discontinued?
Some ways to make your college application or registration stand out are showcasing a potent GPA, strong test scores, extracurricular experience, work experience, compelling LORs, and volunteering experience.
Is the SAT Essay Cancelled? If yes, what is the main reason behind it?
As per the College Board, the primary reason for cancelling SAT Essay was to reduce the demand on students. However, reducing finances and making the SAT more accessible for students are also key reasons.
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On January 19th, College Board announced a few significant updates in regards to its SAT Suite of Assessments, including the elimination of the optional essay portion of the SAT and the discontinuance of the SAT Subject Tests (SAT II tests). Let’s take a look at these changes and how they might affect students’ plans for the spring of 2021 and beyond.
In the release, College Board announced that the optional essay will be discontinued from the SAT following the June 2021 test date, with the exception of school day administrations in states which require the essay for evaluative purposes. Students currently registered to take the exam with essay between now and June will have the option to cancel the essay portion via their online account with no change fees up until the test’s registration deadline. In their statement, College Board observed: “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.”
Although the vast majority of colleges no longer require (or even recommend, in many cases) students to submit SAT Essay scores, it is somewhat unclear what effect College Board’s announcement will have on the few schools that still utilize the essay portion of the exam in the admission process. Ultimately, the best advice for students and families is likely to check with any colleges they are interested in to see what they recommend, but it seems likely that the SAT essay will not play any role in college admissions for any students in the class of 2022 and beyond.
As a tutor aware of the pressures facing students preparing for the test, I see the announcement as a welcome change. The removal of the optional essay, which was only valued by a small number of schools and did not contribute to students’ overall composite score out of 1600, does offer many benefits to students preparing for the SAT. In addition to reducing the cost of the exam by $15, it shortens the already lengthy test by nearly an hour, which may allow students to devote more energy and focus to the four primary sections (Reading, Writing and Language, No-Calculator Math, and Calculator Math) which contribute to their overall score. Additionally, it allows students to allocate more study time towards other endeavors, whether those be further test prep, academic coursework, extracurricular activities, or even developing a stronger college admissions essay.
College Board Will No Longer Offer SAT Subject Tests
College Board also announced its discontinuation of the SAT Subject Tests, also known as SAT II tests, effective immediately in the U.S. and beginning June 2021 internationally. U.S students registered to take SAT Subject tests in this spring will have their registrations cancelled automatically and their registration fees refunded. Because the SAT Subject Tests are often used for a wider variety of purposes internationally, College Board will offer two final administrations of the exam to international students in May and June of 2021. As to how this might affect the applications of students who already took any SAT Subject Tests, College Board states:
We’ve reached out to our member colleges, and they’ll 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.
Ultimately, this probably will not have a large role on the college admissions process for most schools . As of the time of the announcement, very few schools recommended students submit SAT Subject Test scores, and while each college is free to decide how to handle scores from previous administrations of the test and what effect this may have on its admission policies, it is rare for a college to alter its admissions policy in a way which penalizes a student for events that are beyond their control.
College Board attributes its decision to discontinue the tests to the widespread availability of its AP testing, which they consider to render SAT Subject Tests as unnecessary in demonstrating students’ academic knowledge. Both AP exams and SAT Subject Tests are designed as content specific, supplemental exams which allow students to demonstrate their proficiency and interest in specific subjects, and both differ significantly from the standard SAT in their reliance on students’ prior knowledge and comprehension rather than on critical analysis and general problem solving ability. However, there are also some key differences students may wish to be aware of when deciding how to alter their test prep in absence of the SAT Subject Tests . Firstly, because AP exams offer students opportunities to earn valuable college credits, the level of rigor on the exams is closer to that of a first-year college course than to the high school curriculum covered on the SAT Subject Tests . Additionally, there are several key differences in the structure and scoring of the exams:
While the long term effects that these changes might have on students currently preparing for the exams of spring 2021 and beyond remain to be seen, understanding their immediate effects can help students develop effective plans and ease concerns. Additionally, the cancellation of the SAT Subject tests will likely allow schools to offer a greater number of seats to students seeking to register for the SAT this spring.
I would encourage any students or families with questions or concerns to reach out to their guidance counselor or a test prep professional to discuss how this impacts their current plans.
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College Board is scrapping SAT’s optional essay and subject tests
Two major stress points in the grueling rituals of college admissions testing are vanishing this year: the optional essay-writing section of the SAT and the supplementary exams in various fields known as SAT subject tests.
The College Board announced Tuesday that it will discontinue those assessments. Citing the coronavirus crisis, officials said the pandemic has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students.”
The testing organization, based in New York, also revealed the launch of a process to revise the main SAT, aiming to make the admission test “more flexible” and “streamlined” and enable students to take the exam digitally instead of with pencil and paper.
There were few details available on how the main SAT might be changed. David Coleman, chief executive of the College Board, said the organization is not pursuing an at-home version of the exam. He said more information would be coming in April.
The pandemic, which shuttered schools in March and continues to disrupt all levels of education, has created unprecedented turmoil for the SAT and the rival ACT admission test. Many college-bound students have struggled since spring to find testing centers available at the right time and place.
With some exceptions, colleges and universities have ended or temporarily suspended testing requirements. Some college admissions leaders have concluded that SAT or ACT scores are not needed to choose a class and that testing requirements might deter otherwise worthy applicants. Others are making temporary concessions to the reality of the pandemic upheaval and uneven access to testing.
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In 2020, the College Board said, students filed 2.2 million registrations to take the SAT on a weekend. But only about 900,000 tests were taken during those sessions as numerous exam centers closed for public health reasons, sometimes with little notice. Hundreds of thousands more SATs were administered last year through publicly funded programs during school days.
Even before the pandemic, the subject tests and the optional essay were losing influence. Fewer schools were requiring applicants to take them, and many experts questioned their value.
The subject tests, lasting an hour apiece, used multiple-choice questions to cover discrete topics such as math, literature, history, biology, chemistry, physics and various foreign languages. The maximum score for each was 800.
These tests long served a niche role in admissions as a way for students to amass extra credentials showing their prowess for ultracompetitive schools. For many years, Ivy League schools and others, including Georgetown University, recommended, encouraged or accepted subject test scores in addition to the scores they required from the main SAT or ACT. In the high school Class of 2017, about 220,000 students chose to take at least one subject test.
Fewer students are taking them. Few colleges require them. So why are SAT subject tests still needed?
But use of the subject tests has dwindled. The tests also have seemed in some ways to overlap with the College Board’s Advanced Placement testing program. AP tests, which are longer and include free-response questions, have proliferated in recent years. So a student who scored well on an AP calculus test, for example, might wonder why it would be necessary to also take an SAT subject test in math.
“AP provides a much richer and more flexible way for students to distinguish themselves,” Coleman said. The wide availability of AP programs, he said, make subject tests less necessary. More than 1.2 million students in the high school Class of 2019 took at least one AP test.
The College Board said it will no longer offer subject tests to U.S. students, effective immediately, and it will phase them out for international students by next summer.
The main SAT, which takes three hours, not including breaks, has one section on mathematics and another on evidence-based reading and writing. Each is worth up to 800 points. The reading and writing section covers editing and other language skills through multiple-choice questions.
The optional essay adds 50 minutes to the main test. Its score is reported separately and does not factor into the main score. About 1.2 million students in the Class of 2020 took the SAT with the essay — more than half of all who took the exam.
The modern SAT first included an essay prompt in 2005, at the urging of some in higher education, including leaders of the University of California, who thought that an independent measure of free-response writing was essential for admissions.
The most recent version of the essay assessment, which debuted in 2016 , is an analytic writing exercise that asks students to respond to a text. The College Board has said it is meant to resemble a “typical college writing assignment.” The ACT also includes an optional essay.
But enthusiasm for these essays has waned. Many colleges have found the essay scores are not useful or necessary for admissions. In 2018, Harvard University and numerous other highly selective schools dropped their requirement for students to submit an essay score. Last year, University of California officials took the same step as part of a larger policy shift to phase out use of the SAT and ACT.
Pencils down: Major colleges stop requiring essay test for admission
Even though few schools still require the essay scores, many students fret over whether they should take the essay option, and whether their essay scores are good enough to achieve their goals. Now, the College Board is pulling the plug on the essay in all but a few places.
The SAT essay will continue to be offered through June to anyone who wants to take it. After that, the College Board said, it will be available only in certain states, including Delaware and Oklahoma, that use the SAT for school accountability measurement and offer the test during the school day.
Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid at Yale University, applauded the College Board’s announcement. Yale recently stopped considering SAT subject test scores, he said. Quinlan said the SAT’s optional essay had limited value. “The essay score never really became a part of our review process,” Quinlan said.
Quinlan said he is inclined to favor revisions to the SAT that will make it more flexible and accessible and available in a digital format. “They’re going to have to plan, take time, do their due diligence,” he said of the College Board. “It will be a lift, but I think they are up for it.”
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