On the night of January 18th, several high schoolers were busy preparing for their SAT subject tests.
The following day the College Board announced that the decades-old, SAT Subject tests and its optional SAT essay component, would be discontinued immediately in the U.S. The tests would be eventually removed globally.
Let us take a look at the history of the College Board and the SAT subject tests and why the organization took this bold step.
History of SAT Tests
The College Board, first called the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB), was founded in 1900. Its mission was to offer standardized examinations, expand access to higher education, and streamline curriculum.
In its first fifteen years, the College Board offered examinations in nine different subjects.
After World War I came around, universities wondered if the aptitude tests given to military soldiers could be used in the college admissions process. This led to the development of the Scholastic Aptitude Exam (SAT) - College Board’s first psychological examination which measured linguistic, mathematical, and scientific aptitudes. Essay writing was part of the original assessment but was removed in 1941, and was made optional starting 2005.
In 1937, the first “Achievement” exams were administered which were later renamed to SAT Subject Tests in 2004. These exams lasted one hour each, with a maximum score of 800, and covered topics such as math, literature, history, biology, chemistry, physics, and foreign languages. The goal was to show competitive colleges a student’s level of knowledge.
Today, the College Board has become the largest college preparatory organization in the world, with yearly revenue of over $1 billion! The SAT tests also fueled a test prep economy and provided employment to thousands of tutors, with affluent parents spending up to $10,000 on test prep.
Why End SAT Subject Tests?
According to College Board, the AP exams were already testing students on many of these subjects, and it was time to “reduce and simplify demands on students.”
Others say that the pandemic only accelerated a move that was bound to happen anyway. In 2018, many top institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Duke announced that they would no longer require students to write the SAT Essay. In 2020, top schools such as MIT, the California Institute of Technology, and the University of California system made decisions to stop considering SAT subject test scores altogether.
The coronavirus pandemic was probably the last straw - fewer high schoolers signed up for exams with barely any testing locations available. As a result, College Board could no longer sell student information to colleges, placing further strain on its income.
This decision may increase the gap between those who are privileged and have access to AP courses at their high school, and those who don't. As we transition into a post-pandemic world, will this announcement simplify the college admission process or amplify stress - only time will tell!
Sources: Forbes, NPR, NBC, Britannica, Politico, Washington Post