Junior year is notorious for its rigor, and every day I’ve found myself drowning a little bit more into an ocean of homework, extracurriculars and SAT prep. Until recently, that ocean included SAT Subject Test prep.
Following the College Board’s decision to cancel these subject tests and the optional SAT essay, conflicting opinions on the equity issues these exams posed as well as the effects this change will have on the college application process spread like wildfire.
But these standardized tests only serve to build on the already excessive stress that plagues students, especially at Paly, and their cancellation was just and called for.
The American Psychological Association says prolonged stress can lead to high blood pressure and a weaker immune system as well as mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Although it is important for students to study hard and learn both in and outside of school, it is equally important they maintain their physical and mental well-being.
Studying for the SAT Subject Test, a vigorous and in-depth test on a specific subject, can take months.
Additionally, some students may take subject test boot camps to help them; these boot camps are often costly and create unnecessary prolonged stress for students.
The tests also create an equity issue. According to College Board, each SAT Subject Test costs $22 to take, while the language Subject Test with listening costs $26, on top of the already hefty $26 SAT registration fee. Furthermore, the current cost for The Official Guide for All SAT Subject Tests is $16.55 on Amazon.
Many students apply for fee waivers, but they must meet with a school counselor to discuss eligibility. Under College Board regulations, a student can only waive two SAT Subject Test registrations. Despite the waivers, for low-income students these fees and the process of receiving a waiver make it more difficult for them to take the tests.
Affluent students, though, often have access to outside resources such as test-prep classes, books and tutors to improve their performance on these Tests, putting lower-income students at an unfair disadvantage.
Critics of the move argue SAT Subject Tests are a good way to objectively test a student’s understanding of a certain subject. The SAT Subject Tests issue the same set of questions to all students who take the given test for a certain year, score on the same grading scale out of 800 points and issue tests in relatively similar environments. However, that objectivity is not necessarily a positive attribute — giving the same test to every single student disregards their unique background, personal needs, creativity and style of thinking.
Holding all students to a single standard suggests all students have had the same opportunities and resources, when that is not true. These subject tests are designed to evaluate a students’ understanding and capability, but given the existence of AP tests — which cover many of the same subjects as SAT Subject Tests did in much greater detail — the purpose of subject tests is ultimately unclear and reiterative.
The cancellation of SAT Subject Tests will have a positive impact on Paly students, taking one more stressor off students’ plates and moving toward a more equitable and fair college admissions process.