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College Board scraps SAT’s optional essay section and subject tests

College Board scraps SAT’s optional essay section and subject tests amid pandemic as organization announces it will make the exam digital instead

  • On Tuesday The College Board announced it will discontinue the SAT’s optional essay section and its supplementary SAT Subject tests
  • The company administers the SAT exam, the main college entrace test that features a section dedicated to math, reading and writing 
  • The College Board said the pandemic ‘accelerated’ the company’s process to ‘simplify’ their tests and ‘reduce demands on students’
  • The New York-based test company will focus now on making their main SAT test completely digital 
  • The optional essay and subjects tests have decreased in popularity over the past few years, especially during the pandemic when testing sites were closed

The College Board is discontinuing the optional essay section of the SAT exam and cutting supplementary SAT Subject Tests.

The company announced the new changes to its testing system on Tuesday, saying it will instead focus on a new digital version of the main SAT exam.

The SAT is a main college entrance test that takes three hours and features a section dedicated to math, reading and writing. College Board also conducts Advanced Placement exams for high school students. 

The organization said the changes were prompted by the challenges of the pandemic as well as decreasing popularity. 

‘The pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students,’ the company said in a statement. 

On Tuesday The College Board announced it will discontinue the SAT’s optional essay section and its supplementary SAT Subject tests

Due to the pandemic college entrance exams were canceled across the country. 

A digital version of the SAT was scrapped in June due to technical difficulties and hundreds of colleges removed the exam from admission requirements, in many cases permanently. Many schools are forgoing test scores altogether to judge applicants based off their high school transcripts and extracurriculars instead. 

The New York-based company wants to revise the main SAT exam to be completely digital instead of taken with a pencil and paper. 

However, Chief Executive David Coleman has offered little insight into what that could look like. He said more details could emerge in April.

The test will still likely be conducted at testing sites rather than at home individually.

In 2020 the College Board said 2.2million students registered to take the SAT on a weekend. But only 900,000 tests were taken because exam centers shuttered over health concerns, often with little prior notice, during the pandemic. 

Even before the health crisis, the subject tests and the optional aspect of the SAT were losing influence and were less popular than before.

The optional essay added 50 minutes to the main test but it is scored separately and doesn’t factor into the main score. In the high school Class of 2020 1.2million students took the SAT with the essay – more than half percent of all who took the test, as per the Washington Post.

Fewer school required them and experts started to question their value in applications.

The subject tests are multiple choice questions on a specific subject such as math, literature, history, biology, chemistry, physics and foreign languages, and they last an hour. The top score for that test is 800 each.

The College Board said the pandemic 'accelerated' the company's process to 'simplify' their tests and 'reduce demands on students'. The New York-based test company will focus now on making their main SAT test completely digital

The College Board said the pandemic ‘accelerated’ the company’s process to ‘simplify’ their tests and ‘reduce demands on students’. The New York-based test company will focus now on making their main SAT test completely digital 

For years Ivy League schools like Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania required subject tests for some applicants, depending on your major. Most schools have dropped the requirement.

In the high school class of 2017 roughly 220,000 students chose to take at least one subject test.

Nowadays much of the test’s purpose has overlapped with AP exams, which are longer and include free response answers. For example, students taking an AP science class may not see the need to take a SAT subject test in science. 

College Board says the SAT essay will be offered through June to anyone who wants to take it. After that it will only be available in certain states like Delaware and Oklahoma that use the SAT for school accountability measurement.  

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