Why College Board is getting rid of SAT essay and subject tests

Reggie Wade
·3 min read

When The College Board announced it was doing away with the SAT’s optional essay and subject test, this reporter — who turned his love of writing into a profession — was a bit dismayed when the news came down.

David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, said in a statement to Yahoo Finance that the decision was made in the spirit of reducing and simplifying demands on today's students. Nearly 2.2 million 2020 high school graduates took the SAT before the pandemic shut down schools, the not-for-profit said.

“As students and colleges adapt to new realities and changes to the college admissions process, the College Board is making sure our programs adapt with them. The pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students. As part of this process, we’re making substantial investments in the SAT Suite and in tools to help colleges connect with students. We’re providing three updates today and will continue to consult with our members on this ongoing work.”

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the widespread cancellation of group testing sessions for the SAT since March, prompting some schools to eliminate testing requirements amid the contagion, while others have made the tests optional or eliminated them as a requirement altogether.

Multiple choice test high quality and high resolution studio shoot
Multiple choice test high quality and high resolution studio shoot

Simplicity was not the only reason for the change. The College Board noted that the prevalence of Advanced Placement (AP) tests also played a role in why the subject tests were dropped.

“The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability for low-income students and students of color means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know,” he said.

“AP provides students rich and varied opportunities to showcase their knowledge and skills through college-level coursework. Courses like AP Computer Science Principles and AP Capstone provide the type of hands-on learning experiences and practical, real-world work that colleges want to see from students.”

‘Very stressful’

Ron Chaluisan Batlle, executive director of the nonprofit think-tank Newark Trust for Education, tells Yahoo Finance that the students he has worked with over the years found the essay portion of the SAT to be a “very stressful” portion of the exam.

“And I think one part of that came just from where it happens in the exam. With an additional 50 minutes after a very long exam, that was one thing. The other part is that it was a timed exercise; they were constrained by how much time they had available to them and their ability to get their act together to answer the question," he said.

Batlle also noted that many students, educators and administrators did not believe the essay portion was an accurate reflection of academic ability.

“And then there was a technical aspect. It was making sure that it was in the proper format, that they hit kind of the points that they needed to hit. I think some students felt that it didn't necessarily represent their ability to put ideas on paper in a coherent way, or it didn't necessarily highlight skills that they might have."

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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