Is the SAT on its way out?

New York University announced Monday they would no longer require applicants to take the SAT or ACT. Students still must submit standardized test scores but instead of using the two popular exams they can use Advanced Placement results or the SAT subject tests.

About 20 percent of all colleges have made standardized testing optional, including highly-regarded institutions like Wake Forest University. Some ask students to submit an essay or conduct in-person interviews instead.

The move away from the SAT has grown over the past decade.

It accelerated last year when the National Association for College Admission Counseling released a report saying while some standardized testing is needed, the SAT may not be the right exam.

Is it time to abandon the SAT?

Should the exam be replaced with a new test or must colleges find a different way to judge applicants?

11 comments Add your comment

Old School

April 21st, 2009
9:24 am

If other students are like my youngest daughter, test anxiety may overshadow their true abilities. Fortunately, she was accepted by her first choice university (MTSU) and did extremely well, graduating with a 3.8 in her major area (3.4 overall).

Standardized tests just don’t give the whole picture. Her hs transcript had more valuable information than her SAT or ACT scores which were both just above the university’s acceptable level.

Perhaps a portfolio and interviews would be the way to go.


April 21st, 2009
11:19 am

Sorry, but “test anxiety” just cannot be an excuse. As an adult, we all face many pressure situations throughout life. If you never learn how to deal with “anxiety” then you will not be successful in life or in college.

I think that colleges need an equalizer when considering all applicants. That is some impartial way to compare apples to apples. HS transcripts really don’t do it – some HS are more academically difficult than others. Interviews don’t do it – some kids can talk the talk without walking the walk. SOMETHING like the SAT must be used.

I think that these colleges that claim to not “require” a standardized test score are still going to “expect” them. It is all just in the wording. I also think that they changed this wording to mostly accommodate the sports scholarships, not the regular applicants.

Old School

April 21st, 2009
11:55 am

Reality, my daughter suffered with anxiety for a number of years. She was under a doctor’s care but worked very hard to tough out many situations instead of opting for the medications prescribed for her. I have witnessed her become physically ill when faced with stressful testing situations, difficult social situations, large crowds, and the like, yet she soldiered on and never once gave up and never once asked for special treatment. Only her doctor, guidance counselor and parents knew what she was dealing with.

That she was able to attend an out of state university 9 hours away from home and successfully complete her degree speaks volumes.

I’m no medical authority but I do know that there are those people whose blood pressure rises in stressful situations like major standardized tests, the importance of which has been drummed into their heads. My daughter and I are two. I NEVER make excuses for either of us but I do recognize the challenges we meet everyday.

My daughter now works for Google and I’m still teaching high school after 35 years. I’d say we’re both pretty darn successful.


April 21st, 2009
12:00 pm

Interviews are so subject to interviewer bias — so then, instead of SAT prep classes, we get interview prep classes. *sigh*. I am trying to imagine a school like UGA, that received 11,800 applications — are you seriously going to propose 11,800 meaningful interviews between August and January? That’s six months, about 1,600 interviews a month, about 400 interviews a week. That’s 10 interviewers working full time for six months interviewing 40 kids a week. Doesn’t really sound feasible to me.

I understand and sympathize with test anxiety — but get over it. This is not the first test they’ve ever taken, and it sure won’t be the last. The SAT is far from perfect (I actually like the ACT better), but it’s better than nothing, and it does serve to compare apples to apples, given the wide range of grade inflation and degree of difficulty in high schools, etc. that you see today.

I think AP exam scores are certainly a good indication of the ability of the student to handle college-level material, but at the same time, I do think that college kids should do college work, and high school kids should do high school work. Pushing high school kids to do college work in high school seems to me to be a major case of “teaching to the test”.


April 21st, 2009
1:24 pm

Many colleges are starting this practice and I think it’s perfectly fine. What works for one school may not work for another one. I didn’t do particularly well on the SAT, but I graduated from college with honors. Is it a true indicator of one’s ability, I doubt it. I personally think it’s great. Harvard and Yale won’t be using this practice, but many others will and I applaud them for it.


April 21st, 2009
2:55 pm

I think Reality is right. I think the SAT is the equalizer that is needed to sort through applicants. I had several classmates who were honor graduates because we attended a fairly easy high school, they worked very hard and/or they kissed teachers’ rears, but their SAT scores were abysmal. They all got into the local community college, but I don’t believe that any of them graduated. I, on the other hand, was a lazy B student who did very well on the SAT and was accepted to several schools, including UGA where I graduated.

As for test anxiety, I think this is an excuse most often used by educators (and I’m an educator) to excuse their own academic/intellectual shortcomings. Several years ago I was taking graduate courses toward certification and overheard students talking about receiving only provisional certfication because their GRE scores were not high enough. They could not understand why a 4.0 from Podunk College was not enough. Can you imagine type of conversation among med or law students?

Reality 2

April 21st, 2009
4:12 pm

I don’t think SAT can really tell us if students who scored 670 on math will be more successful as college students who scored 600. If you score “high enough,” that probably means you are college materials. If there are other ways you can identify who are college materials, then colleges should by all means use those measures.


April 21st, 2009
6:16 pm

As others have noted, colleges need some way to compare appples to apples. Due to the differences in curriculum, grade inflation, and other factors, it is difficult to compare students without some type of benchmark. The SAT and ACT are two of the most widely used evaluation tools for that purpose.

Unfortunately, I think the trend in recent years of SAT and ACT prep probably has diminished the effectiveness of using those two tests. If a student scores high on one or both of these tests, is it a true indication of aptitude or just good exam prep?

And yes, if the difference between getting into the college of your choice or not is a high score on a test, then certain individuals do get test anxiety.


April 21st, 2009
7:50 pm

My kids did great on SAT. However, the College Board is in the business to make money and I think colleges are wise to begin distancing themselves from that entity. If you examine the corporations with large interests in the testing industry, you’ll find some conflicts of interest. Kaplan, for instance, makes huge amounts of money from test prep materials. The Washington Post owns this company and is frequently responsible for pushing the testing agenda.


April 22nd, 2009
9:24 am

Playing devil’s advocate for a second: Is test prep so bad? As we’ve noted, taking tests is a skill that must be developed successfully. The test preps seem to concentrate mostly on HOW to take the test efficiently, not necessarily cramming facts and figures into a kid’s brain. You can’t teach a kid calculus a month before the exam and expect them to ace the Math portion.

Dad Gearing Up for Colleg

April 23rd, 2009
12:57 pm

I’m getting the sense that universities have been looking more closely at college exams for financial aid requests. Is anyone else seeing that? I guess it’s to be expected given how the recession is causing a lot more students – and their parents – to request grants and scholarships than in the past. A friend of mine actually said the most anxious email-opening for him this spring wasn’t his kid’s acceptance-or-rejection notice but the one with the financial aid offer.

While I have mixed feeling about the emphasis put on SATs/ACTs, etc., I’m starting to acquiesce about the need to get my daughter better prepared for them. Interestingly, while my wife and I were at a mid-term parent/advisory meeting a few weeks ago at her high school, I noticed a table set up by one of the test prep companies (I think it was Princeton Review), and among other things they were advertising an event this weeken where sophomores and juniors can take (for free) a full-length practice test for the SAT and ACT and then get an analysis on how they did.

Has anyone done this sort of thing before? It seems like a pretty good opportunity, and while I realize that Princeton Review would ultimately like me to sign up my daughter for their test prep course, it doesn’t look like there’s any obligation. So…I guess I’m thinking it shouldn’t hurt for my kid to get an early sense of what the test is really like and how she might do. Thoughts?

Dad Gearing-Up for College