The End of the SAT

Why the Renowned College Admission Test May Be Phasing Out

Tove Moen

The pandemic has had a large impact on the future of the SATs. Since March 2020, the beginning of quarantine in much of the world, over 500 colleges consider the SAT to be optional in admissions criteria. More recently, over 1,600 colleges announced that they would no longer consider test scores as a requirement for admission. The SAT subject tests have recently been phased out by the College Board…….. Health and safety concerns left the College Board scrambling for ways to create a test that could be taken digitally at home, and with no immediate solution in sight, more colleges began dropping their requirements that students take the test, leaving the SATs in the midst of uncertainty. These decisions were partly determined by concerns about equity that grew during the pandemic. 

Standardized tests, SATs in particular, are known to be racially biased. In fact— according to Joseph Soares, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Yale University— race has become a higher predictor of test scores than both parents’ education and family income. The bias dates back to 1926, when Carl Brigham first invented the original SAT test. He claimed that the test would help prove the superiority of the white race and prevent infiltration of  “white blood”  into African Americans. 

Even now, students of color have received significantly lower scores on both SAT and ACT tests than white students, as reported in a 2020 College Board study. Because of this, many qualified individuals are not considered for merit scholarships and even admission to certain colleges and universities. Furthermore, a university study published by Curriculum Inquiry shows that lower test scores are also incredibly discouraging and can lead to a loss of self motivation. High potential students may completely change their desired field of study or the decision to even apply to college due to low standardized test scores. This may contribute to why we see only 16% of minority students pursue STEM careers compared to 69% of white students, according to a Pew Research Center study. A Stanford study states that in order to diminish the growing racial enrollment gap, changes need to be made to the college application process, not in the relative preparation of students. 

In addition to racial inequities, both tests put less wealthy students at a disadvantage. A Washington Post study using College Board data showed that family income directly correlated with a higher SAT score. Many aren’t able to pay for private coaching, test prep, or academic support, all of which can be expensive. There have also been stories of college admission scandals where wealthy families bribe school officials for resources, such as extra time on the test or fixing incorrect answers—the most egregious of which was recently featured in a Netflix documentary. 

It comes as no surprise that as a result of such scrutiny, the College Board is suffering. Although they have not been transparent about their revenues, estimates say as much as $45 million could have been lost due to the pandemic. With the rising dissatisfaction among college administrators regarding the test, as well as backlash from the public, there’s a chance the SAT may no longer be in effect in the future.