Academics & Research News

SAT changes adapt to pandemic to help students

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

With College Board’s decision to eliminate the writing section and subject tests from the SAT, college students and incoming freshmen discuss how the test affected their admissions while in a pandemic.

Many college admissions require SAT scores as a part of the acceptance process, and before the time of coronavirus and social distancing, this could include an optional writing section or separate scores for the subject tests offered by the College Board.

Kaplan, a test prep group for the SAT, ACT and more, have been affected by this change in SAT format based on how they help students preparing for college.

“The reality is that although there was a lot of initial interest in the writing section, it didn’t live up to expectations and as the years went by, colleges became less enthusiastic about it, citing their existing ability to gauge applicants’ writing skills through their own application essays,” said Kaplan executive director of College Admissions Programs Isaac Botier.

The writing section was originally added to the SAT back in 2005 and became an optional, separately graded portion of the test in 2016, Botier said, and the elimination of the writing section altogether is one less thing for students to prepare for and reduces stress.

Hotel and restaurant management sophomore Sydney Hetherington is finishing her first year at UH and said she never took the optional writing section with her SAT.

“I think the exam is good as it stands, but it isn’t a sole indicator of the student’s knowledge,” Hetherington said.

As the coronavirus pandemic has been ongoing for about a year, psychology and Spanish freshman Briana Azad remembers the added stress preparing for the SAT gave her before being admitted at UH.

“My experience with the SAT was really stressful. I remember taking practice test after practice test trying to perfect my score,” Azad said. “At the end of the day, I feel like the SAT wasn’t the best measure of my intelligence (and) academic capabilities.”

Without the writing section and subject tests, Azad said the test may have been a little easier. She felt as though the subject tests did not seem necessary in the long run.

“I felt like I needed to make myself look like a better candidate by doing the optional writing section and a few subject tests, which didn’t seem too much of an option when so many universities say doing them is recommended,” Azad said.

As students in their high school years are preparing for college by taking the SAT, the College Board permanently eliminating the writing section and subject tests to adjust to the pandemic is aimed to be helpful for these future college freshmen.

Azad mentors high school students as they prepare for the SAT and sees the way the test seems to dominate their academic careers, she said.

The SAT subject tests and essay will no longer be given to students preparing for college in the U.S., but international students are still able to complete those portions until June 2021, according to The Crimson.

“Overall, we think it’s safe to say that neither colleges nor students will be disappointed to see the departures of the writing section and subject tests,” Botier said.

“For college applicants, this shift allows them to focus more on the tests that can help them secure college credit and win merit-based aid, which are the AP exams. And a strong SAT score remains an effective way for applicants to distinguish themselves in what continues to be a competitive college admissions process.”

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