The failing future of the SAT/ACT

Clio Koh, Staffer

The College Board, the organization that creates and administers the SAT, recently announced their decision to permanently stop offering the subject tests and optional essay portion from the SAT. In the College Board’s statement, their reason for doing so was to “reduce and simplify demands on students.” The announcement is only one of the many changes that happened to standardized testing during the 2020-2021 school year.  

Last year, over a thousand colleges across the U.S. dropped their standardized testing requirement for the 2020-2021 application cycle, with many deciding to remain test optional well beyond the 2021 academic school year.  Furthermore, the University of California Board of Regents recently voted unanimously to gradually phase out their use of SAT/ACT tests, planning instead to develop their own standardized exams by 2025, which is expected to have ripple effects on colleges throughout the country.

Standardized tests—the SAT and ACT—have long been criticized for inequitably benefitting higher income students. A 2015 study from Inside Higher Ed shows students from low income families (below $20,000 in yearly household income) tend to score the lowest with SAT reading scores averaging around 433. Meanwhile, students from high income families (above $200,000 in yearly income) are the top scorers averaging around 570 on SAT reading scores. From the disparity, experts draw the conclusion that students from higher-income families have more financial access to test prep resources, which were shown to improve test scores.

In recent years, companies who develop standardized tests have struggled to remain relevant to schools and colleges. In hope of closing the disparity over access to test prep, the College Board worked with Khan Academy to create a free online SAT prep program. 

Doubts remain whether the standardized test really measures college preparedness if, as many claim, higher scores are achieved through studying how to take the test itself, rather than learning the subjects supposedly tested.

Organizations like the College Board make money from developing and administering the standardized test and SAT prep books; as of 2017, the College Board generated 1.1 billion in revenue. Despite being a not-for-profit organization(in which all earning does not give profit to the owner but go back toward the organization), their massive revenue led opposition to accuse the College Board of exploiting students’ fears and anxieties toward standardized testing. 

With many dissenting opinions about the current standardized testing, the emergence of a new way of testing may be more likely than one thinks. 

 

More about the UC’s five year plan to replace the SAT/ACT can be found here.