May 22nd, 2014 | University

Harvard makes SAT Subject Tests optional

Harvard University announced recently that applicants to its class of 2019 and beyond will not need to take the SAT subject tests.

According to a recent update on the university’s website, while Harvard still requires all applicants to submit either their SAT or ACT score as part of the application, applications will be considered even if they do not include the two subject tests which traditionally have been requirements for applying to most selective colleges in America. Each SAT subject test — which tests one subject area in depth — is scored on a scale of 200 to 800.

“While we normally require two SAT subject tests, you may apply without them if the cost of taking the tests represents a financial hardship or if you prefer to have your application considered without them,” says a statement on Harvard’s website.

Harvard is the first Ivy League school to make the SAT subject tests voluntary. However, a slew of other selective colleges such as Stanford, the University of California schools and the University of Chicago do not mandate SAT subject tests as part of an application.

Standardized testing has often been criticized by college admissions officers for allegedly perpetuating educational inequities and for not serving as an accurate barometer of a student’s performance in college. Harvard’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William Fitzsimmons has been one such well-publicized critic of the merits of standardized testing in college admissions. In 2008, he chaired a commission convened by the National Association for College Admission Counseling that claimed the burgeoning test-prep industry benefits more affluent students. Still, at the time, Fitzsimmons said to the New York Times that Harvard would not go test-optional as standardized testing still is a useful tool for the school’s admissions office to use when selecting between highly qualified applicants.

Harvard’s move comes on the heels of the College Board’s decision in March to revamp the SAT. Starting in the spring of 2016, the new SAT — which remains mandatory at Harvard — will return to a 1,600 point scale rather than its current 2,400 point scale. College Board’s president David Coleman ’91 said the contents of the test will also change to level the playing field for students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

There are 20 subject tests, including two math subject tests that are currently offered to high school students.