On January 19, 2021, College Board announced on their blog that they would be discontinuing the SAT subject tests, also known as the SAT II.
As this decision provided a sigh of relief for many students, some felt as if this may have not been the best decision.
When determining the absolute answer to whether or not these subject tests should have been canceled, it is important to consider the various student perspectives.
What Was the Reasoning Behind Canceling the SAT Subject Tests?
The original purpose of the subject tests was for students to be able to demonstrate mastery in specific fields of study. For example, the Math II subject test allowed students to exemplify their knowledge within the subjects of pre-calculus, trigonometry, algebra, and more. These tests were also used by colleges to determine where students should be placed in terms of academics.
So what exactly was the primary motive behind canceling the distribution of these exams? The College Board justified this decision by stating that removing subject tests would reduce the demand on students. Besides, the AP Exams already allow students to demonstrate mastery in different subjects, so there is no need to have additional tests that examine generic information.
What Are the Benefits of Permanently Discarding These Exams?
With the COVID-19 pandemic already creating a burden for students worldwide, there is no doubt that many of them felt even more stressed with the number of exams they were expected to take throughout high school. Many students would rather invest the time studying for these subject tests into something more meaningful, such as extracurricular activities. By eliminating these exams, students can dedicate this extra time towards something that they care about, whether it is volunteering for COVID relief or taking the time to relax.
Another benefit that came with the removal of these exams was the economic aspect of it. The SAT subject tests, just like many of the other exams, provided a financial burden for students. With a registration fee of $26 and a price tag of $22 for each test taken, the tests were fairly expensive for many students, and the pandemic only made these costs more difficult to manage.
With the primary motive for removing subject tests being their redundancy due to the existence of AP Exams, it is important that students take advantage of these AP Exams in order to obtain college credit. By scoring well on the exam, students will not only show colleges that they have mastered certain subjects, but they can also skip certain classes in college. This can be very advantageous as students can skip the more difficult courses, such as Chemistry, in college by doing well on the AP Exam during high school.
What Are the Drawbacks of Discontinuing the Subject Tests?
Even with the numerous benefits that come with not having to worry about the subject tests, there are also a few notable drawbacks. For example, if a student earned a bad grade in a certain subject, they could justify the grade by performing well on the corresponding subject test. An example of this would be not getting an ideal grade in a Spanish class, but getting a perfect score on the Spanish subject test.
Another notable drawback of getting rid of the exams was the negative impact it had on home-schooled students. Since many students who studied from home were unable to take AP classes, they were able to demonstrate mastery in specific subjects through taking the SAT Subject tests. By taking these exams, they were able to exemplify their knowledge without having to do so through rigorous AP Exams, which they would usually have to self-study for.
In addition, doing well on SAT subject tests could have actually boosted an applicant's college resume. By doing well on an SAT subject test, the student can show colleges that they are ready for college academics through their ability to score well on difficult subject-based tests. This way, the student could use subject tests to make up for any questions regarding whether or not they have mastered a certain subject based on their grades.
Taking subject tests also gave a fair way to measure academic performance in a certain subject among all applicants for college. There is no doubt that a certain subject at one school may be easier than the same subject at another school. In addition, GPA inflation can skew the general understanding of how one student is doing in school as some schools have higher average GPAs than others due to the weighing metrics they use. Although subject tests are not necessarily required nor do they have much weight in admissions, they can certainly help a student demonstrate their knowledge.
How Can Students Compensate For the Loss of Subject Tests?
For students who initially relied on subject tests to demonstrate knowledge in specific subjects, there are still several ways for them to do so, even with the tests being discarded. Students can take the extra time that they now have to focus their efforts on the SAT and ACT, in which they can illustrate their knowledge within the primary fields of mathematics, English, reading, and science (if they choose to take the ACT).
They can also show their academic interests by getting involved in exterior exams and clubs, such as Science and Math Olympiad. By investing the extra time into different academic extracurriculars and activities, students can still demonstrate their academic knowledge to colleges in other ways besides the subject tests.
With subject tests out of the picture, it is important to consider what to do with the extra time. Students can take advantage of this time to further pursue their interests without having to worry about standardized testing, and they can also use the time to prepare for AP Exams as they are essential for showing mastery in different subjects and can also give the student college credit.
With College Board voiding the distribution of the SAT II, students are now able to invest their time and money into more meaningful activities. As other students may have been negatively impacted by this decision, it is important to note that there are many other ways for them to demonstrate their knowledge and mastery in different subjects.