The SAT is dropping essay option, subject tests for HS students
New Jersey high schoolers are adjusting to news that the optional SAT essay no longer will be offered after June, while SAT subject tests also will end.
The College Board announced the changes on Tuesday, noting that it was aimed at reducing demands on students as they and colleges "adapt to new realities and changes to the college admissions process."
Ronald Chaluisan, executive director of the nonprofit Newark Trust for Education, said the dropped SAT essay option would be met differently depending on the circumstances of a student.
"For students that are either gifted writers, because they've had certain experiences or they've had the kind of coaching that allows them to develop over time, it's gonna be a miss," Chaluisan said.
For students who get anxious or stressed out about the prospect of completing an essay within a one-hour timeframe directly after taking the three-hour SAT test, there will be a sense of relief in not having to make the choice of attempting the optional essay, he said.
"Writing remains essential to college readiness and the SAT will continue to measure writing and editing skills, but there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing, and the SAT will continue to measure writing throughout the test," according to the College Board website.
At least six colleges and universities in New Jersey already have moved to an application process that makes standardized, college preparatory test scores entirely optional.
Montclair State University, Drew University, Stockton University, Rowan University, Bloomfield College and Kean University all having made the shift even before the pandemic.
Rutgers University and The College of New Jersey announced this spring that they would waive the required submission of SAT or ACT scores for applicants in 2021.
TCNJ planned to maintain optional test scores for admissions through the 2023-24 school year, as the college tries to more fairly evaluate students from diverse backgrounds.
Chaluisan said for high school students taking either Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses, SAT subject tests had become redundant — which the board also reflected in its announcement.
"The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know," Chaluisan said.
"It makes sense that you're going to do a reduction in duplication of assessment, and if you had to choose between on-demand, timed assessment versus an overtime way of looking at kids' progress — I would always default to the looking at kids' over time development mechanism," Chaluisan said.
He said he's not a big proponent of an on-demand, timed assessment of writing skills for high schoolers preparing to embark on college.
"Writing is not often something that students do on a regular basis in school as part of their curriculum, and I think that's a structural change that needs to change in high schools," Chaluisan said. "How do we create learning situations for young people that are driven by the things that are important to them and yet help us to connect them to the big skills that they're going to need long term in life?"
He noted that aside from the challenges of admissions personnel trying to determine whether a student worked on a writing submission entirely on their own, a more effective way of showcasing such skills might be for colleges to asking for a portfolio of a few written pieces done over the course of a student's time in high school.
Students registered, or planning to register, for an upcoming SAT with essay will still be able to complete that portion of the test through June dates. Those who prefer to cancel the optional essay portion can do so in their online account, with no change fees, until the registration deadline.
Students currently registered for an upcoming SAT subject test will automatically have their registration canceled and fees refunded.