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SAT Scraps Essay, Subject Tests to Ease Demand on Students

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College Board has removed the optional essay section and subject tests from the SAT college entrance examination because of the impact the pandemic has had on standardized testing.

The adjustments come after a growing number of colleges and universities agreed to place less weight on SAT and ACT scores during admissions since accessibility and opportunity will not be equal for all students. 

“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,” the board said in a statement.

Students who registered for the subject tests prior to the announcement will get refunds. However, there will be two final examinations for international students in May and June of 2021 since these tests are used “for a wider variety of purposes.”

Removing redundancies, improving efficiency, and satisfying student needs were all identified as major causes for removing the essay and subject area exams. 

“This change simply streamlines the process for students who have other, more relevant opportunities to show they can write an essay as part of the work they’re already doing on their path to college,” the organization stated.

Critiquing the Board

But some critics believe that this decision has financial motives since it was reported that the SAT exams make up a large portion of the College Board’s $1 billion annual revenue.

“The SAT and the subject exams are dying products on their last breaths, and I’m sure the costs of administering them are substantial,” Oregon State University Vice Provost of Enrollment Management Jon Boeckenstedt said in an email.

Boeckenstedt also claimed that this could be a move to convince elite high schools to offer more Advanced Placement courses also handled by the board.

Moving forward, the College Board also announced that it would continue developing a digital version of the SAT exam as an effort to transform standardized testing and make it more relevant today. While it did not announce a finalized time for when this product will be released, more information will be provided in April.

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