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The Good and Bad of No Subject Testing

GOOD: Less stress for applicants (and their parents)

It’s wonderful that students will have one less standardized test to take in the college admissions process. The respite from spending time strategizing which tests to take, preparing for those exams, and losing yet another Saturday morning worshipping the false idol that is the College Board will bring a great sigh of relief to students, parents, and college counselors everywhere.

GOOD: Less money spent on tutors for the SAT2 Subject Tests

The process of preparing and applying to college can be expensive, and the SAT Subject Tests have been one of the streams of cash leaving the pockets of parents and stuffing the pockets of the College Board.

GOOD: More colleges may become entirely test optional

Approximately 550 colleges and universities dropped testing requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. About 1100 colleges and universities already were test optional. As the testing organizations scrambled, some colleges have been learning how to evaluate applications without test scores, and we predict that at least half—perhaps more—of the newly test optional schools will remain test optional permanently.

GOOD: School counselors will not have to administer SAT2 Subject Tests on behalf of the College Board ever again

School counselors everywhere will celebrate that they no longer must give up their own Saturdays to proctor these tests. However, these celebrations will be brief, as the same school counselors will still have to administer the “regular” SAT and ACT for a long time to come.


BAD: One fewer objective measure in the admissions process

While the SAT Subject Tests had dubious value in measuring the content knowledge of college applicants, they constituted one objective measure in the admissions process. Test takers received a score. A number. Something that could be compared from one student to the next. Never mind that the comparison didn’t really tell us much. At least it was an objective indicator of something… something that admissions officers could use to separate the “good” applicants from the “bad” ones.


BAD: Increased importance of the SAT and ACT tests themselves

With the extinction of SAT Subject Tests, the SAT and ACT will become even more important, especially for highly selective private universities and for flagship state universities. Because GPAs are not consistent from district to district and school to school, and because curriculum offerings can also vary widely, using measures of “academic performance” and “academic rigor” remain pretty darned subjective. It’s hard to compare apples to oranges. So standardized tests are a handy (if imperfect) means to compare students in wildly divergent scholastic circumstances.

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