The College Board — the testing nonprofit that administers the SAT and Advanced Placement exams — announced on Jan. 19 that it will no longer offer SAT Subject Tests or the SAT Essay.
The decision came amid sharp declines in the number of standardized test takers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As testing centers closed due to safety concerns, many colleges and universities, including Yale, became test-optional for the 2020-21 admissions cycle. A recent Politico article reported that approximately 800,000 fewer students in the high school class of 2021 took the SAT as compared to the class of 2020.
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan told the News that in the past, subject tests were “useful parts” of the admissions process. The admissions office, however, only used the SAT Essay occasionally, and scoring on the essay was “never really calibrated in [Yale’s] process,” according to Quinlan.
“I feel good about this change,” Quinlan told the News. “This allows for more clarity about what matters in our process and what students need to be doing. Reducing those steps, reducing those barriers in the [admissions] process is overall a good thing for students and families and for the process, and I welcome this change.”
Yale College was subject-test blind this year, meaning admissions officers did not view students’ SAT Subject Test scores at all while reviewing applications. Prior to the pandemic, subject tests were recommended but not required in the application process. Quinlan said that the office was considering bringing SAT Subject Tests back into the process next year, but the College Board made the decision for them by eliminating the test altogether.
The College Board’s elimination of subject tests went into effect immediately in the United States. Subject tests will be administered internationally two more times — in May and June of 2021 — as the subject tests are “used internationally for a wider variety of purposes,” according to the College Board. The SAT Essay will be eliminated after the June 2021 administration of the test.
In a press release, the College Board said it was eliminating subject tests due to the expansion of AP exams, which it says renders subject tests unnecessary; the SAT Essay, because there are ways to better test writing skills, including the SAT reading section and the writing and language section.
“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 press release said. “The pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students.”
The College Board also announced that it will invest in a “more flexible SAT” that will be “streamlined and digitally delivered.” It did not announce a timeline for the change, but cited the pandemic as the catalyst.
Bob Schaeffer, the interim executive director of FairTest — an organization that opposes the use of standardized tests in admissions — told the News that he supports the elimination of the subject tests and essay, but he thinks it was an “inevitable” business decision rather than one geared toward helping students.
Schaeffer claims that the market has rejected subject tests and the SAT Essay, with the number of schools requiring them plummeting in the last 20 years. Citing Politico’s statistics, Schaeffer said that the College Board appears to be in financial trouble due to the pandemic, and therefore had to double down on its two largest revenue-generating tests — the SAT and the AP Exams — and eliminate extraneous tests, such as the subject tests.
“You can best understand the College Board as a business whose revenues are created by marketing testing products,” Schaeffer said. “And this was a normal business cycle consolidation.”
The College Board told the News that SAT Subject Tests and the SAT Essay both have a “positive economic impact” on the organization, but that it is nonetheless making a “mission-based decision” to eliminate them.
Quinlan said he is excited about the College Board’s focus on developing a streamlined, digital version of the SAT. He said that making the SAT more flexible and inexpensive should be a key goal of the College Board.
Yale has not yet announced whether it will require standardized test scores for the 2021-22 admissions cycle, but Quinlan said the admissions office will make and announce a decision in February or March of this year.
Decisions for those who submitted the regular decision application to Yale College for the 2020-21 admissions cycle will be announced on April 6.
Amelia Davidson | firstname.lastname@example.org