2021 SAT Changes

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With this year’s changes to the college admissions process precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic, the College Board has recently announced that they will be discontinuing the essay portion of the SAT and all SAT subject tests.

The optional essay portion of the SAT was used to evaluate students’ reading, analyzing, and writing skills. This analytical writing exercise required students to read a passage and provide a written answer to a given prompt. Discussed by US News, many colleges have dropped their requirements for students to submit an essay score from their admissions system to alleviate extra financial burdens that may have prevented students from applying to their institution in recent years. These colleges felt they were able to get a sufficient understanding of an applicant’s literary skills through the reading and writing portion of the SAT. As a result, this year, College Board decided to remove the SAT essay portion and stated that it would only be available in, but not limited to, Oklahoma and Delaware. 

Similarly, SAT subject tests were also discontinued by College Board. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the subject tests were questioned by experts regarding their value in determining a student’s proficiency. The subject tests, consisting of only multiple-choice questions, cater to the subject specialties of their applicants–ranging from physics to language–and are each an hour long. For years, students have strived to reach the standards of Ivy League schools by taking the SAT subject tests to accumulate extra credentials. However, as high schools increasingly encouraged the College Board’s Advanced Placement testing programs in recent years, the use of subject tests also diminished. AP tests, which take 2-3 hours, not only include multiple-choice but also short response questions. In addition, the wide availability of AP programs in schools makes students question whether the SAT subject tests are necessary, according to the Washington Post. Thus, College Board has decided to discontinue the subject tests to reduce demands on students. 

 Townsend Harris High School students expressed their opinions regarding the recent news. Sophomore Catherine Fang said that she expected the College Board to eliminate subject tests but didn’t think they would eliminate the essay portion. “I was shocked that they would eliminate the optional essay because I honestly don’t see any strong reasoning from the College Board to make the decision. Perhaps the College Board will change the SAT to make up for the removed essay portion,” she said.

Some students are working to adjust to these new changes. Junior Wilson Chu said, “This may complicate [college applications] as I need to figure out how everything will work out and what changes this may make towards the college application process.” 

While junior Angelina Baicu believed that the essay would have been a good indication of a student’s writing abilities, she also felt that “eliminating the essay portion will definitely be a relief on some students especially given the current circumstances with the pandemic.”

Sophomore Brian Hsu also expressed his support for College Board’s decision on eliminating tests. “I feel relieved that the tests would be removed,” Brian said. “Online school is already a very challenging and unfamiliar time to be in, and removing the tests would relieve a lot of pressure.”

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