And Then There Was One

With decision by Harvey Mudd, only MIT requires all students to submit SAT Subject Tests. And MIT is looking at its policy.

February 18, 2020
 
Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College last week announced that it was dropping the SAT Subject Tests as a requirement for all applicants.

The announcement leaves only the Massachusetts Institute of Technology requiring all applicants to take SAT Subject Tests and comes just a few weeks after the California Institute of Technology announced that it was dropping a requirement that all students complete the tests.

A generation ago, the SAT Subject Tests, many times called the SAT II or the achievement tests, were the testing norm at elite colleges. The exams are subject specific and test knowledge of mathematics, sciences, literature, history and languages. (Colleges' decisions on the subject tests do not affect their views on the SAT.)

But gradually, colleges stopped asking for them as requirements. (Some colleges require them for engineering students.)

At Harvey Mudd and Caltech, officials cited similar reasons for dropping the requirement. The primary reason cited wasn't a concern about the tests, but the additional costs in time and money to prepare.

Thyra Briggs, vice president for admission and financial aid at Harvey Mudd, said, "Our alumni have been transformative leaders since our founding. In order to continue this tradition, it is essential that we make a Harvey Mudd education as accessible as possible.”

Stuart Schmill, dean of admissions and financial services at MIT, said via email, "We are discussing the subject tests very thoroughly on campus now, and I don’t have any updates currently. We have been requiring the tests because we have found that the tests, together with a student’s grades, are predictive of student performance in our curriculum. But as I said, we are discussing whether we will maintain their use in our process."

Cigus Vanni, an independent college counselor, has been monitoring the SAT Subject Tests for years. He faulted the College Board for not putting as much effort into updating the tests as into other College Board products. In light of that, he said he would favor a system of "discontinuing the subject tests altogether rather than continue with exams that are not valid and appear to add nothing significant to the prediction of college-level success."

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