Many College Board standardized tests undergo cancellations


Graphic by Julianne Cruz

In January, the College Board announced that the SAT Subject Tests and the SAT Essay would be discontinued. MCPS also announced that the January PSAT administration was canceled.

Liz Frisbie, Features Writer

Nothing has been spared from a year filled with cancellations and rescheduling — including major standardized tests. Students all over the country have had to deal with changes to the SAT and the removal of SAT Subject Tests. 

One major test that was canceled in MCPS schools was the PSAT. Usually offered to ninth, 10th and 11th graders in October, the PSAT allows students to take a practice SAT in a real testing environment. Additionally, juniors who score high enough on their PSAT can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Even though many students study for the SAT outside of school, many still believe that the PSAT is valuable to their preparation. Sophomore Brooke Frampton was one of those who missed out on this opportunity. “Practice makes perfect, and taking the PSAT would’ve helped me get comfortable with the test format and the environment,” Frampton said. 

Moreover, PSAT tests provide a detailed score report that tells students what questions they got wrong and explains the correct answers. “[The PSAT] is a good tool to use because you get the detailed score report so you can see what areas you need to focus on to improve, and what areas you’re doing really well in,” College Career Coordinator Mary Hull said.

Fortunately for students, MCPS recently announced that a tentative SAT School Day would take place in April. During this time,  juniors would take an official SAT, and sophomores would take a PSAT. Even though it is optional, numerous students have expressed interest. “I probably would [take the PSAT] because I think it would help me with the actual test,” Frampton said.

Someone could read an essay one way and love it, somebody else another way and not get the gist of the essay.”

— Ms. Hull

In early January 2021, the College Board announced that they would no longer be offering SAT Subject Tests, which were one hour long each, offered in five subject areas over twenty tests and scored on a scale of 200-800. They could be taken on days that the SAT was offered (six times per year), and were very flexible — students could change the Subject Tests they were taking on the day of the exam. This flexibility came from the fact that unlike AP Tests, which students could take classes to prepare for, students taking Subject Tests were completely on their own in terms of preparation. This may be why some colleges required applicants to take certain Subject Tests. 

The College Board’s announcement stated, “The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know.” But, some students still think that Subject Tests are necessary. “It’s always good to test yourself even if you don’t want to,” junior Gavin Gibson said. SAT Subject Tests will be available to international students through June of 2021 but have already been canceled for students in the United States. It was also stated in the College Board’s January announcement that the already optional SAT Essay would no longer be offered on the SAT, except in states where it is required as part of the SAT School Day. 

When students took the SAT Essay, they would have 50 minutes to read a passage and explain how the author built an argument to persuade an audience by using evidence from the passage. Like SAT Subject Tests, some colleges required applicants to take the SAT with the Essay portion. 

Even though the Essay had been a part of the SAT, many students did not prepare to take it. “It was amazing to me how many students did not prepare for … the essay portion,” Ms. Hull said. In addition to this lack of preparedness, the grading system for the SAT Essay might have influenced the decision to remove it. 

“[The College Board] had readers come in and read the essays, so that is very [subjective] … someone could read an essay one way and love it, somebody else another way and not get the gist of the essay, and it could go many different ways,” Ms. Hull said. 

Despite the unprecedented changes, students are keeping with their usual studying schedules. “I do [SAT] practice tests every week or so,” Gibson said. “It has helped me not lose skills in quarantine.”