The Latest News with the SAT and Subject Tests

The most common question I’ve been asked lately, is, “what do we do about the SAT”? The local high school district had plans to administer the PSAT this month, but due to COVID and the tier we’re in, those plans were scrapped (like everything else SAT related for the past 10 months).  For most students I work with, I have been advising them to wait with test prep. Juniors are dealing with added stress and pressure during distance learning and for many students I work with the idea of doing test prep on top of their schoolwork right now could adversely affect their mental health, not to mention their grades. In addition, as I write this, I have no idea when students in the Bay Area will be able to take the SAT. With so many unknowns, there is nothing wrong with hitting the pause button. (If you have questions about your personal situation-reach out!). Many students who are doing test prep right now are doing so because of pressure from tutoring companies or because this is the “normal” time students do test prep.  This is a business for many people; I just want to make sure that students’ priorities are put first.   


This morning, I woke up to the news from the college board that they are eliminating the essay portion of the SAT as well as subject tests during the pandemic (but hopefully longer).


Let’s be really clear, while I think the SAT is flawed for a variety of reasons, I understand the need for some kind of test to offer a standard and uniform way of evaluating students. When admissions officers are reviewing applications from students from thousands of high schools, an A or B can mean different things at different schools. A standardized test helps provide some context for these grades. 


The SAT and all of these additional offerings are a business for the College Board. While no college in the U.S. requires the essay portion of the SAT, many students are either forced into taking it at their school, or feel pressure to take it because it’s offered, and it comes with an additional fee. The same goes for the subject tests.


Historically, elite colleges required subject tests, sometimes up to three. Over time, they have become less important, many schools even say they will not take subject tests. Despite all of this, many students felt the need to take these tests for competitive schools. In 2020, Yale, MIT and Cornell Engineering, amongst other selective schools said they would NOT consider subject tests. I commend these admissions departments for prioritizing students’ well being. 


So what?  Let’s not let our kids be caught in the middle of the business of testing and test prep. We are on the way, but there is plenty of time for the SAT or ACT – and I promise you there will be plenty of testing dates later this spring, early summer. 

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