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College Board will no longer offer SAT’s optional essay, subject tests

Students leave Lewis and Clark High School at the end of classes March 13, 2020, in Spokane, Wash. (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review via AP)

(CNN) — The SAT’s optional essay and subject tests have been nixed by the College Board, the latest step away from standardized testing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As students and colleges adapt to new realities and changes to the college admissions process, College Board is making sure our programs adapt with them. We’re making some changes to reduce demands on students,” the organization said in a statement.

The subject tests will still be offered for international students, but only for two more sessions — in May and June.

Students already registered for subject tests will be automatically refunded, the organization said. Those registered for the SAT essay will still be able to take the test through June.

In response to why the organization is discontinuing the SAT essay, College Board again referenced the “changing needs” of students and colleges.

“This change simply streamlines the process for students who have other, more relevant opportunities to show they can write an essay as part of the work they’re already doing on their path to college,” it said in a statement.

Though this change by College Board is permanent, the last few months have seen many schools temporarily step away from requiring college-readiness exams.

Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California system, for example, all dropped their SAT and ACT requirements for the year — with the UC system suspending them until at least 2024.

At the same time, more and more students and parents have argued that the tests should be optional on a permanent basis, saying that the tests aren’t a true reflection of a student’s intelligence or academic ability.

An analysis by Inside Higher Ed, for example, found that the lowest average scores for each part of the SAT came from students with less than $20,000 in family income, while the highest scores came from those with more than $200,000 in family income.

Still, College Board and ACT, Inc. have defended their tests, arguing they are still widely used and provide a standardized measure of academic readiness.

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