SAT test undergoes changes

The College Board announced last week the discontinuation of two components of the SAT exam: SAT Subject Tests and the SAT with Essay.

The testing company attributed these changes to the rapidly evolving nature of college admissions and the growing litany of demands being placed on students. The SAT Subject Tests and SAT with Essay have long been an integral part of college admissions at many institutions, with some going so far as to require that students take not only the SAT, but several subject tests as well. 

While it’s unclear what the impact of this change on college admissions will be, Diamond Bar High School Class of 2022 grade level coordinator David Desmond says he doesn’t expect any significant consequences.

“I don’t think the cancellation of SAT Subject Tests will have a tremendous impact on admissions,” Desmond said via email. “It already [overlapped with] the same type of information a university can get from a student’s grades and AP tests.”

As of the date of the announcement, all registrations for the SAT Subject Tests in the U.S. have been canceled and fees have been refunded. However, international students will still have two more opportunities to take the SAT Subject Tests in May and June of this year. There remain qualms regarding the removal of the SAT Subject Tests.

“One piece that we’ll lose is the ability for a student who already speaks a language other than English to prove [their proficiency]… with a subject test instead of actual classes,” Desmond said.

Meanwhile, students will still be able to take the essay portion of the exam until June.

“I was planning to take the SAT with an essay, so I took prep over the summer… it’ll [the removal of the essay] make my hours of practice a bit obsolete,” junior Daniel Zoubtsov said via Messenger.

Starting in July, the SAT with Essay will only be offered in states where it is required, such as Michigan and Illinois. The College Board expressed confidence that the SAT’s Reading and Writing, as well as Language sections, will accurately gauge students’ literary skills.

“The SAT with Essay really catered toward the UC system and with [colleges] making changes in their admissions requirements, I think it made sense for The College Board to get rid of the essay portion,” Class of 2022 grade level coordinator Jenna Brummett said via email.

The College Board also stated that colleges will independently decide whether or not to consider existing SAT Subject Test scores in future college admissions.

“To be honest, I am a bit relieved about it because the SAT has deteriorated in purpose over the years,” Zoubtsov said. “It was meant to be a test that you prepared for [during] your school career and not over [the] summer. There is little to no individuality, which ironically is the core value of college.”

In recent years, the organization has had to adapt to a rapidly changing college admissions system placing decreasing emphasis on standardized testing and heavier weight on extracurriculars. Despite this, many Diamond Bar High School students continue to dedicate much of their time outside of school to prepare for the SAT.

“I spent a pretty agonizing summer studying with SAT prep classes… it would be a shame to have wasted all that effort,” junior Steven Tjandra said via Messenger.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social distancing restrictions, many colleges have become test blind or test-optional during this time. A notable change was the University of California’s decision to halt the use of SAT and ACT scores in admissions by 2024.

“Although more and more colleges are becoming test blind, there are still quite a few that are test-optional and test required,” junior Steven Tjandra said via Messenger. “It is safe to assume that other traits… will be even more important, which does put more pressure on me to do well.”

Additionally, highly-selective colleges such as Harvey Mudd College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology announced in 2020 that they will no longer consider SAT Subject Tests in college admissions.

“My hope is that they are sincerely trying to be a part of a better situation for students by reducing a stressor,” Desmond said. “It’s important for students and families to not push themselves too hard, to find a balance between working hard but also being a healthy, happy young person.”

In lieu of the sudden alterations made to the SAT exam, the College Board has recommended the AP program as a benchmark of content mastery. However, multiple concerns with this transition have been raised, a major issue being the price of the AP exams, which may discourage would-be testers. Currently, AP exams can cost upwards of $95 each while SAT Subject Tests are $22 each in addition to a set $26 registration fee.

“Fee waivers will still be available and we are committed to providing an equal playing field for all students to the best of our ability,” Brummett said.

Furthermore, in order to take the AP exam for a course, students must be enrolled in that course at Diamond Bar High School, which may limit student opportunities.

“[This] is definitely something we will need to explore as a school,” Brummett said. “As a GLC team, we will continue to advocate for what is best for our students.”