SAT drops subject tests, essays


(This story originally appeared in on Jan 21, 2021)

MUMBAI: The College Board, the New York-based organisation which runs the Scholastic Aptitude Test, has scrapped its subject tests and announced its decision to do away with the optional essay, thus making the main SAT 50 minutes shorter in duration. Candidates are admitted based on SAT scores for undergraduate admissions in the US and to 40 universities in India, private and deemed.

The subject tests were 20 multiple-choice standardised tests offered by the Board for individual subjects, taken typically to improve a candidate’s credentials for college admissions in the US. These hour-long 800-point tests were popular among Indians who completed high school from a local state or national board. The College Board, the standardized testing group, explained the doing away of these tests, stating, “We’re reducing demands on students.”

However, over the years, the College Board’s Advanced Placement Testing Programme overlapped in its aim with that of the subject tests. Advanced Placement Programs or APs, which are longer and more intense, offer the opportunity to students to skip a prerequisite course typically taken in the first year of college and to start a higher-level course in the same subject.

The ‘optional AP’ is also the name of college-level courses taught in high schools, and the AP diploma is accepted globally at top universities. In countries like India, where national boards do not offer APs as an addition to the high school curricula, independent centres will allow candidates to take the AP programme and the test to prove their academic prowess in top universities.

The College Board, in a press statement, said, “The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability means the subject tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know.” While the College Board said it will no longer offer subject tests to US students effective immediately, it will phase them out for international students by summer.

Karan Gupta, student counsellor and an expert in college preparation, said the decision partly reflected the shifting environment in terms of standardized testing. “The pandemic has shown us that colleges and universities have been able to admit students by looking at their high school grades, extracurricular activities, and holding interviews,” Gupta said.

In the case of the essay too, top universities have found that essay scores, submitted separately, are not useful or essential for admission. Currently, most Ivy Leagues don’t require the essay scores in the SAT score docket. “We’re adapting to respond to the changing needs of students and colleges. 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,” said the Board.





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