Adjusting to ‘new realities’ in admissions process, College Board eliminates SAT’s optional essay and subject tests

The College Board will eliminate the SAT’s optional essay and do away with its subject tests amid a chaotic college admissions landscape marred by the coronavirus pandemic. 

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“As students and colleges adapt to new realities and changes to the college admissions process, College Board is making sure our programs adapt with them,” the organization said in a statement Monday, adding that it wanted to reduce the demands on students.

The subject tests will immediately end for U.S. students and be phased out for international students by June. The optional essay will be discontinued after June testing sessions.

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The coronavirus pandemic has caused turmoil for the three-hour, multiple-choice SAT and rival ACT. Both are believed to be an essential part of college admissions. 

Neither the essay nor the subject test “was very good from a measurement perspective,” said Bob Schaeffer, interim executive director of the Center for Fair and Open Testing. 

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And some researchers argue students’ grade point averages in high school are better predictors of how they’ll fare in college. The exams also may not cover the subjects most important to some institutions.

But even as the pandemic caused widespread cancellation of group testing sessions, students have been documented for their efforts to take the tests, driving to other states where the tests are offered, and in the case of at least one student, contracting COVID-19.

Both tests reopened for registration in the summer, but a high volume of students trying to register led to complaints of both sites crashing (the SAT uses the College Board site, while the ACT uses a separate registration site).

Still, since April, more than 1 million people have taken the ACT, said John Wannemacher, the ACT’s chief marketing officer. And 1 million students have taken the SAT since August, the College Board said this month.

But more colleges are flipping to test-optional, at least for the 2020-2021 admission cycle.

About 1,600 of all U.S. colleges and universities – about two-thirds – have temporarily waived requirements for the SAT or ACT exam, according to a September survey by the Center for Fair and Open Testing. And a 2016 review found that fewer than a dozen U.S. colleges and universities required applicants to submit results from SAT Subject Tests.

Contributing: Chris Quintana, USA TODAY; The Associated Press 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Adjusting to ‘new realities’ in admissions process, College Board eliminates SAT’s optional essay and subject tests

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