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SAT II Subject Tests & SAT Essay Portion Canceled

We’ve talked before on this blog about the general decline in importance placed on standardized testing in the last 10 years or so. The Covid pandemic has accelerated these trends, with some colleges going so far as to declare that they are moving away from any standardized test consideration, as the University of California did for this year, as well as at least the 2023 and 2024 admissions rounds.

It now seems that College Board itself is moving to respond to this backlash against standardized testing in college admissions, and they are doing so in two ways. First, College Board has officially decided to stop offering both the optional SAT essay portion as well as the SAT II tests or SAT “subject tests.” This is a change that has been coming for a while, as enrollment in the SAT II tests have been dropping by large single-digit percentage points year-to-year for the past several. In fact, from 2010 to today, SAT II enrollment had dropped a staggering 45%. This is because, as College Board’s statement itself recognizes: “The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know.”

We here at Veritas are happy to see this change. Class grades are generally a better indicator of academic performance in college than standardized testing, as has been shown to be the case in recent studies. Beyond that, we have long been advocates for a more holistic, “whole-person” approach to the college admissions process. This change is a step in the right direction for that reason. It is also an important first step in addressing the inequality present in testing accessibility in America, even before Covid made these socio-economic and racial divides in the country more apparent.

Source: College Board 2016 (based on the old 2400-point system)

The question now is what will become of the base SAT and ACT tests. It has been difficult for testing centers to stay open, and College Board has relaxed its restrictions on off-site testing at schools in order to reduce the number of students in testing centers and provide more options for students looking to test. However, there continues to be speculation about the future of the SAT. Will it be made available to take from home remotely? Likely not. Will more schools follow UC’s lead and move from a test-optional policy to a no-test policy? That remains to be seen.

So what does this mean for students currently preparing for the 2022 admissions process? And for younger students? It’s hard to say with certainty at this point, as much of the future of standardized testing lies with the policies of colleges responding to the challenges of Covid and changing perceptions of standardized tests. This is likely not the last chapter in the ongoing story of college admissions offices re-evaluating their priorities when it comes to selecting applicants. However, there are a couple of things we can say with reasonable confidence.

1. Course selection will be more important

Students will no longer have the option of showing schools their academic interests and abilities through the subject tests. However, AP courses and the AP tests associated with them are still a core component of many schools’ curricula (although some private schools are beginning to move away from them). This means that students able and willing to take multiple AP classes before senior year will have a fuller set of standardized tests to submit to schools with their application. With that in mind, we would encourage students to sign up for more AP classes, if they feel they will be able to perform well in them. We also offer classes each term as supplementary, enrichment material to help students excel in these courses. Check out our class list for more details!

2: Essays will continue to be a major aspect to the application

The aforementioned backlash against standardized testing has led many colleges to put more emphasis on the application essay. With schools looking to find out more about the student as a person and gauge their potential and accomplishments, essays will fill that gap. Veritas Education has always put a great deal of emphasis on cultivating students’ abilities to understand and tell their own stories, through the medium of personal narrative essays and in other ways. Each year we offer dozens of students the chance to work on their ability to express themselves through our essay classes and our in-house developmental curriculum for younger students.

3. Colleges may lean more on GPA more in making admissions decisions

Having standardized metrics for judging student success is still important for many college admissions officers, for good reason. As a result, students may need to refocus their efforts away from short-term cramming for tests and towards more long-term intellectual development and the creation of productive habits that result in good grades. This will also mean that the things students do in their sophomore and freshman year of high school will have a relatively greater impact on their college acceptance chances. That’s why it’s so important that students begin thinking about their college life as early as possible. We encourage our advisees to begin working towards developing the habits, hobbies, and passions that will become their area of focus in college and their life direction in freshman year or earlier. You can learn more about our college counseling and advising services on our website!


4. The SAT may still have a place

One of the main arguments for standardized testing is that it allows colleges to validate GPA scores from school coursework and avoid schools artificially inflating their students’ grades. In this respect, as a validation technique, it’s quite possible that the SATs will remain a rite of passage for nervous juniors everywhere. Much of it depends on how university admissions offices plan to react to this incredibly volatile moment in American and higher education history.

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