The SAT is a rite of passage into college for many students worldwide. Now, more than ever, there is the question of whether or not the test truly holds as much significance as it is given.
by Sriya Gundlapally
The SAT test, along with the optional essay and subject tests, has been taken by millions of students since it was introduced by College Board in the early 1900s. The subject tests are meant for students to show knowledge outside of the main English and math skills on the SAT, giving students an edge for admissions. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, many students have been unable to take the standardized tests as the testing sites frequently close, canceling the test, often with short notice.
Meanwhile, many colleges are going test-optional because of these inconveniences students are facing. College Board recently made the decision to discontinue the subject tests and optional essays, which will allow for less stress and fewer barriers for diverse students, including low-income families. However, there is further discussion on whether the SAT as a whole should be discontinued.
Higher education professionals and students find that the SAT is a high barrier for many students in attaining higher education. However, testing companies and some colleges still find the SAT to be a test that is helpful to assess students. The SAT must be able to satisfy the needs of the students and others if it is to be continued.
This is where the trilemma is presented: should the SAT be continued or should we, perhaps, take a more progressive approach to cancel it? Or is there possibly a neutral perspective?
The SAT Should Be Continued:
From its origin, the SAT has been used for admissions to colleges and universities. Test preparation companies, such as Elite Prep and the Huntington Learning Center, help thousands of students reach their dream scores and get admitted to their top college choices. As long as students find the need to take the SAT, the test will be continued.
According to The Atlantic, even though more colleges have gone test-optional, “the combined number of students taking the tests also continued to climb.” This pattern has surprised many, however, despite the withdrawal of the test being mandatory, the importance of the SAT still remains in many students’ and their parents’ minds. In fact, because of the pandemic and local testing site closures, some students are willing to travel past state borders or further to take the test at all costs.
If the SAT is discontinued there will also be many students who lose a crucial part of their application. Holistic review, in this way, may not be as beneficial to students who priorly thought of focusing on the SAT or even the ACT. It is difficult for these students to shift their focus to extracurricular activities and such if they are already closer to admission deadlines and lack opportunities, or even time, to do so.
The SAT may also be necessary for colleges and universities which get over 100,000 applicants at a time. After all, the SAT was the way in which many students were accepted to colleges in prior years, expected to be at a certain level of performance. Standardization may have these benefits, but standards in society seem to be changing.
The SAT Should Be Discontinued:
College Board has acknowledged with the SAT subject tests and essay that their discontinuation is attributed to lowering the expectations on students. The SAT is one of the major stress factors in high school students: over 30% of all students experience pressure because of testing.
Students from around the world feel compelled to take these tests to prove their knowledge to colleges which, in turn, factors into the stress of students. As competition grows for admittance to the best colleges and universities, students are willing to do several hours of extra work even if means neglecting their own health. Therefore, any cancelation of standardized testing can go a long way. With this, students can also focus more on their mental well-being and other activities. Also, this decrease in demands will allow students to focus on relationships that they may have been forced to neglect, such as time with their families.
It is also important to note that students often take the tests to be more competitive rather than for their growth in learning, which defeats the purpose of the tests and, instead, creates a toxic environment. Additionally, students who might not be able to afford the tests and the expensive courses in preparation may be at an extreme disadvantage to those who can, fostering a toxic environment rather than one that is educational. The SAT has been part of this barrier. Therefore, its removal leads to more diversity in social backgrounds and "interests and abilities'' according to Kuriloff, a former professor of education. As increasing numbers of students are facing competition, lower-income students or those from different communities may feel that they do not have a chance in admissions due to their economic standing. Tests are only a small part of the expense, but they have a large impact on the future educational opportunities that a student may have access to. Hence, when the SAT subject tests discontinued, many students felt one step closer to higher education since the many expenses and unnecessary competition were lowered.
Many higher education professionals have also agreed with the removal of the SAT because of the way in which it limits diversity as only certain student groups are applying. It is difficult for students to get proper test scores, also, if teachers and facilities are unfair. The SAT’s discontinuation will have a positive impact on college admissions and educational accessibility.
Although the continuation or discontinuation of the SAT is a controversial issue, there may be a way for both sides of the argument to benefit. One compromise would be to cancel the SAT but have a way for students to receive free help with making their application more well-rounded with extracurriculars, essays, classes, and more. If students are able to receive this support, the college admissions process will be easier even if the students “miss” the standardized test scores.
The limitation with this would be that more students would be well-rounded with skills and this would make it, once again, difficult to select only certain groups of students. However, this also means colleges are able to increase in diversity, representing the different cultures and economic backgrounds, and this allows for more equality. Students will also be more encouraged to look past academics and think more about their own futures. Removing the SAT allows for this possibility for students, but regardless, well-rounded students should have the opportunity to further their education.