By Nona Saharan
On Tuesday, January 19, the College Board announced the discontinuation of both its optional SAT essay and its SAT subject tests. The board also revealed their plans for a “streamlined, digitally delivered” SAT test. Both changes came after several months of test cancellations and adamant frustration regarding adherence to Covid-19 protocols at testing sites.
The news came with a brief statement from the College Board itself. “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,” they disclosed on their blog. “We’re making some changes to reduce demands on students.”
The College Board claims the cessation of its SAT supplements stemmed from accessibility and equity concerns. However, opposing voices claim that the organization’s intentions are far more superficial. Vice provost of enrollment management at Oregon State University Jon Boeckenstedt expressed to the New York Times that “College Board was likely to try to use the elimination of the subject tests to try to convince elite high schools to offer more Advanced Placement courses, whose tests the College Board also administers, as a way to burnish their students’ transcripts.” Regardless of the College Board’s ambitions, the impact this decision will have on the importance of standardized testing is clear.
So, what does this new change mean for WW-P students and, moreover, students all across the country?
For many, the elimination of the exams comes with the wave of relief that preparation is no longer necessary. Others, however, claim the actions only increase pressure on students, specifically juniors, to take more Advanced Placement courses and exams to refine their college portfolios and compensate for the lost opportunities for test-taking.
A handful of test preparation companies have come out to deliver their two cents on the breaking news. “It’s important to keep in mind that SAT scores have always been a measure of whether a student is prepared for college-level work and everyone should have an opportunity to put their best foot forward,” Kaplan Test Prep wrote in response to the College Board SAT announcement. “We think it’s terrific that the College Board is making SAT prep widely available for students of all income levels.”
The removal of subject tests and the essay section will undoubtedly usher in continued questions regarding the necessity of standardized testing in evaluating college applications. It’s unclear whether higher education will begin disparaging standardized test scores and instead turn their attention towards extracurriculars, transcripts, essays, or other components of the college application. Nevertheless, the College Board’s mission to “expand the reach of the SAT and their Advanced Placement program for low-income students and students of color” demonstrates the organization’s commitment to putting the students first.
Most likely, the evaluation of college applications will continue to fall victim to socioeconomic and racial stigma for years before a complex, nuanced solution is reached. Regardless, it seems that the College Board is taking a step in the right direction: one away from America’s obsession with standardized test scores and towards a more holistic assessment of student character.