Editorial: SAT Writing Test Will Largely Not Be Missed But Subject Tests Will Be

There are 50 minutes on the clock as students rush to read and analyze a short passage, all to get scored on a notorious eight point grading scale. Thankfully, on June 19, it was officially stated that the College Board will no longer offer SAT with Essay.

On a Frequently Asked Questions page on the College Board website, the organization explained, “We’re adapting to respond to the changing needs of students and colleges.” 

In 2005, the College Board first announced that there would be a new essay component to this college readiness test, or Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), and then in 2016, the College Board made the essay optional. The many changes might have resulted from a lack of interest and not being cost-efficient enough (the additional essay costs an extra $16). So, it was not much of a shock that 16 years later, it’s completely gone. 

Besides, only a few select schools required an SAT essay pre-COVID-19, such as the University of California, Berkeley. However, amid the pandemic, colleges like UC Berkeley and Dartmouth have entirely suspended SAT or ACT requirements until 2024. So, this decision by the College Board might not have made a significant difference for many students in America, but how about the students who have spent hundreds of dollars on tutoring and the international students who used the essay as another way to prove themselves as a competitive candidate? 

The essay’s elimination will put some international students at a disadvantage because they might have relied on the essay to prove their writing skills. Also, although the eight point grading scale was highly fluctuated, it was an easy way for colleges to quantify international student’s work on the same scale as students in America.

The elimination of the SAT essay might also mean colleges asking students to submit essays from their high school language arts classes; for example, universities like Princeton already require this. However, for students both internationally and in America, each school has a different grading system, and teachers have different expectations. This means regardless of  quality, the grade may vary. Ultimately, this means the SAT essay, in some ways, was a great equalizer.

The essay was not the only change the College Board decided to make. The SAT Subject Tests will also be discontinued effective immediately for students in the U.S and after June 2021 for international students. Like with the essay, this was not much of a shock, as there was also a slight drop in registrations for the Subject Tests. For example, in 2018, The Washington Post stated that in 2017 only “220,000 graduating high school students had taken the Subject Test.” Since then the number has been constantly decreasing. However, SAT Subject Tests were cheaper than AP exams. The Subject Tests cost around $26 versus each AP Exam costing $95. Having the cheaper Subject Tests always available is better than not having them at all. So, is the College Board trying to “reduce demands on students” or trying to increase their revenue? 

A 2020 Forbes article explained that the College Board makes “$1 billion in annual revenue and $100 million in untaxed surplus” creating the AP exams and SAT tests. It’s simply a “non-profit that operates as a near monopoly.” The only difference from other businesses is that the College Board fills their pockets by putting a price on its student-customer’s education. 

Not to mention, AP exams are offered only once a year, and if a student happens to do poorly on the exam, they will have to wait an entire year to retake the exam; this puts more pressure on students to do well the first time. On the other hand, Subject Tests are offered throughout the year, and students can retry multiple times. 

Nonetheless, all these College Board changes mean one thing: less standardized testing. Does that mean that one day the College Board could entirely eliminate the SAT? Most likely the answer is no because, as mentioned earlier, the SAT poses financial benefits for the College Board organization. In addition, although its weight on college applications is decreasing, standardized tests prove to be a quantifiable measure of the students’ abilities, and the College Board will most likely continue modifying the test. 


Links to article: 

Fewer students are taking them. Few colleges require them. So why are SAT Subject Tests still needed?

Forbes: How The SAT failed America