Developing the New Standard

More colleges begin to go test optional as COVID-19 pandemic impedes on in-person testing


TESTING THE WATERS: Junior Sam Peeples prepares to take the SAT scheduled for May of 2021. Students can find more information on registration dates on the College Board website.

On January 19th of 2021, the College Board announced that it is eliminating the optional essay section, along with the SAT subject tests. This decision came about due to the COVID-19 pandemic making it extremely difficult for high school students to take standardized tests. 

Hundreds of colleges throughout the country became test optional for the 2020-2021 application pool as a result of the pandemic, but many hope that colleges continue to stay test optional due to the limits it puts on students. 

Colleges are making an effort to attract more diverse applicants, and they don’t want potential students to be held back by circumstances beyond their control, whether that’s test centers being shut down because of the coronavirus or students not being able to afford standardized tests, even in non-pandemic times.

Kelly Kuntz, the college career counselor at Roncalli, explains her thoughts on what colleges will do in relation to requiring standardized tests.

“In general college applications are down and there is a crisis in our country with the cost of college. I imagine the schools who are struggling to get students to apply will remain test optional while the bigger, more popular schools in the country may go back to requiring test scores. I fully expect the more competitive schools and the Ivy League schools to go back to requiring test scores,” Kutz said.

Every SAT administration includes an additional section at the end for students, which is randomly selected from a pool of subject tests. In an effort to increase the fairness of the test, College Board is removing this section of the SAT.

The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability for low-income students and students of color means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know,” the College Board included in an online release.

The optional essay section is also being discontinued this year. 

“This decision recognizes that there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing. At the same time, writing remains essential to college readiness, and the SAT will continue to measure writing and editing skills. The tasks on the SAT Reading and Writing and Language tests are among the most effective and predictive parts of the SAT” College Board said.

To better react to the evolution of education, they are also investing in an online version of the test, one that is streamlined and far more accessible.

“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of being innovative and adaptive to what lies ahead. We are committed to making the SAT a more flexible tool, and we are making substantial investments to do so. “

While the average highschooler might be quick to explain why they do not like the SAT, other alternatives have yet to be thought of. 

When considered in context and in conjunction with other academic factors, testing such as the SAT can be very helpful in assessing a student’s preparation for college-level curriculum.  I believe standardized tests are currently the only way for schools to compare student’s knowledge in the fairest way possible.  The quality of education, academic preparation, rigor, grade assessment, and grading scales vary from school to school even within districts let alone cities and states,” Kuntz said. 

As of now, it seems as if the SAT is here to stay, even if it is no longer be required when applying to most colleges. There is a possibility that there will be better alternatives to the infamous standardized test in the future, or it will be discontinued as colleges find that its flaws outweigh its positive factors.