College Board Updates Met with Mixed Reactions

By Stella Heo and Erin Hambidge, Online Editor-in-Chief and Staff Writer

// For years, many students and parents disapproved of the College Board providing standardized tests that colleges used as measures of students’ capabilities. In response to COVID-19 and the growing criticism, the organization updated the types of tests it will distribute.

   The College Board announced on Tuesday, Jan. 19 that it will no longer offer SAT Subject Tests and the SAT with Essay due to changing college admissions processes.

   The organization cited wanting to reduce demands on students as the reason for discontinuing SAT Subject Tests immediately and pointed out that Advanced Placement (AP) classes sufficiently showed proficiency in different subjects. The College Board also stated that colleges can understand a student’s academic performance through their SAT scores, transcripts, and course selections.

   The decision relieved many students because they would not need to prepare for as many standardized tests on the same subjects.

   “I feel relieved that the Subject Tests are gone because that means I don’t have to study for different versions of the same test this year… Now I have more time to focus on doing great on one test instead of doing okay on two,” junior Katrina Ortman said.

   Students who did not know if they should take the tests found the decision stress-relieving.

   “I haven’t started really researching whether or not I should take Subject Tests depending on where I’m considering to go, and so the College Board removing them all together makes my college research and college prep less stressful,” junior Autumn Long said.

   Students critical of the decision pointed out that there will be more weight on AP classes.

   “The SAT Subject Tests being canceled makes things a lot more stressful. I was planning on applying to schools out of [the] country, and most of them require both AP exams and SAT Subjects Tests to apply. Now, there is so much more weight on scores from AP exams, not just for schools in the [United Kingdom], but everywhere,” junior Mia Jaenike said. 

   In addition to canceling all SAT Subject Tests, the College Board will no longer offer SAT with Essay after June. The essay, once grouped with the writing segment of the test, became optional after many people criticized its formulaic approach to writing. 

   Students supportive of the decision emphasized that the SAT would be less tiresome without the essay.

   “Doing a timed essay after hours of an SAT was absolutely painful emotionally and physically. My hand cramped up and it wasn’t worth it, so I’m glad nobody else has to go through it,” junior Lauren Yee said.

   However, students critical of the decision pointed out that some students might have relied on the essay to potentially reinforce poor math or critical reading scores. 

   “The essay being discontinued might not be a good thing because it means there is more riding on a smaller portion of the test, which isn’t great if you aren’t a comfortable test taker. It also means there’s less room for error because there is no essay to support your performance if you score poorly on the multiple-choice section,” junior Sammy Hess said.

   The College Board is also looking into creating a digital version of the SAT and will give more updates in the spring.

   Many students supported the idea of a digital SAT because it may lower possible COVID-19 transmissions.

   “The pandemic has definitely reshaped our school system, and while things may be returning to normal soon, I believe it’s necessary for students to have the option to take the SAT online. COVID-19 has made it very hard for students to take it, so it will give them the opportunity to take the exam while staying safe,” junior Katherine Montoya said. 

   Some students liked the idea but emphasized that the digital version may have its flaws, such as students cheating, if students take the test at home.

   “I think it’s a great option though I’m not sure how they’re going to regulate cheating. I just think it will be a huge disparity in scores and most students will opt for the digital version,” Jaenike said.

   Overall, many students are happy with the changes and see them as a step forward in showing colleges a student’s various skills that aren’t highlighted in standardized tests.   “This is another step in not requiring simple test scores and instead of having more holistic evaluations,” Long said. “For both myself and many others, sometimes students just have a bad day. If that bad day happens to be on the one day of the year they signed up for a test, that could make it or break it for college, [and] I think that’s an incorrect evaluation of the student’s capabilities.”

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