The College Board should not have gotten rid of the SAT essay and the SAT Subject Tests

Parikshith Hebbar, Contributing Writer

On Tuesday, Jan. 19, the College Board announced it would be discontinuing both the SAT Essay and the SAT Subject Tests.  Both of these were used in the college admissions process as one way to distinguish students from another. 

The SAT Essay was an optional fifth section of the test where students could demonstrate their writing abilities on a critically graded section.  The essay portion has been phased out of the college admissions process in the past few years, so its elimination will not have a significant impact on students.  More importantly, SAT Subject Tests were used to determine a student’s aptitude in an array of subjects from U.S. History to Latin.  They also served as a cumulative evaluation for courses slightly less rigorous than an AP exam.  

At Schreiber, the Honors Biology and  Chemistry courses, among others, were specifically designed to cover some of the material for the SAT Subject Tests.  This not only meant that Schreiber students could show their prowess in the subject on the test in June or August, but they were also able to use material that was uniform across the country.  Now, with these tests removed, students cannot show their academic skills on specific subject-oriented standardized tests, making the rest of the high school experience more challenging due to the increased importance of strongAP test scores.

“It shows the full potential of the students and makes them look better for colleges,” said freshman Jai Dhillon.

The College Board has insisted that the recent move to eliminate some tests is designed to simplify the admissions process for students, but many college officials disagree.  Problems with test administration during the pandemic have revealed that the College Board needs to focus on improving its digital presence in order to make tests more readily available.  Cutting back on the number of tests it administers frees up resources to use on these critical new developments. 

Subject Tests were viewed by some people as a backdoor way for students to study for a few weeks and do well on an exam to bolster an application.  For example, a student could study a Biology Subject Test textbook and ace the test – without taking advanced high school biology.  This was useful to those who  may not have access to strong, well-taught courses, as well as those who would rather not take  a year long college-level course. 

“Some students might be more proficient in subjects that aren’t on regular SATs, so they might do well on subject tests, but if subject tests are taken away, they won’t do as well,” said freshman Zayd Pattie. 

This also has a negative impact on homeschooled students.  Homeschooled students who seek to apply to competitive colleges look for objective standardized test scores, like these subject tests, for their admissions.  Now, they have lost this distinguishing and defining opportunity.  It makes it a lot harder for this subset of college applicants to prove their academic ability  because the AP exams are often challenging for a homeschooled or self-directed learner to register for.  

It is also harmful to remove these tests because it may make college admissions more arbitrary and random without the benefit of these objective standardized test scores.  Tests are a great equalizer; anyone from anywhere can take them and can then be compared to others on a national level.  Although bias against low-income groups and certain races on standardized tests is widely acknowledged to be a problem, there is currently no way to reduce the influence of money on standardized testing, so the continued use of these tests is still the most viable option.  Without SAT Subject Tests there will be fewer ways to compare students to one another. 

“Removing the Subject Tests and the SAT essay doesn’t allow students to track their progress,” said freshman Nicholas Bienenstein.

The College Board is a mission-driven, non-profit organization that connects students with college success, admissions, and opportunity.  Founded in 1900, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education.  Today, its membership association consists of over 6,000 of the world’s leading educational institutions and it is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education.  Many believe that the College Board may be smaller and less influential in the future, as many colleges that went test optional this year are expected to stay that way in the future, further eroding the College Board’s influence.

“The College Board will fail because they aren’t giving students SAT essays and subject tests and that’s what the College Board is all about.  The College Board’s priorities are helping students by providing those tests and essays,” said freshman Nichole Granda. 

With the elimination of the SAT Essay and the SAT Subject Tests, students will not be able to demonstrate their academic skills and aptitude in a particular subject.  In addition, removing the essay and these tests may ultimately contribute to diminish  the impact that the College Board has on the college admissions process.