(Anusha Kurapati / Emory Wheel)

The College Board announced on Tuesday that starting in 2024, the SAT will be shortened, revised and moved online. The test will be reduced from three to two hours, reading passages will be shortened and made more relevant, and a calculator will be permitted on the entire math section. This change comes in response to a widespread shift away from college admissions testing since the start of the pandemic. 

More than 1,800 colleges and universities did not require standardized test scores for the 2022 admissions year. SAT subject tests were suspended and the California State University (CSU) system, the largest four-year public university system in the nation, moved to drop the SAT and ACT requirement entirely. 

The SAT and ACT are quickly losing relevance and the College Board is struggling to modernize its tests. Unfortunately, the move to digital testing is only a band-aid solution to deeply ingrained inequity and accessibility issues in college admissions. The SAT is an outdated practice and universities should continue to abolish the testing requirement rather than accept the College Board’s attempts at modernization. 

Moving the SAT online does not turn it into an accurate tool for assessing college readiness. Shortening the test, moving it online, permitting calculators and abbreviating reading passages does nothing to change the reality that test performance is often not indicative of intelligence or success. Despite the SAT’s new digital status, it is the same test. 

College admissions testing is a broken and biased practice. Online testing will still occur at testing centers, perpetuating many issues like test cancellations and COVID-19 capacity issues, which drove the test-optional movement in the first place. Family members at high-risk of COVID-19 illness might deter students from taking a test in a crowded testing center. Independent from the pandemic, the process for disabled students to receive accommodations for in-person testing is long and complicated. 

The new online SAT format does not address the greatest inequity in testing: some testers are inherently disadvantaged. Race and family income are directly tied to test performance; in 2018, SAT scores for Asian and white students averaged over 1100 while Black and Latino students’ scores averaged below 1000. This score disparity can be attributed to test preparation: Comprehensive test prep books are expensive, tutoring classes are unaffordable and high income students have access to advanced classes, good teachers and afterschool programs. Even taking the test is unaffordable. The registration fee is $55, and waivers are inaccessible without the help of a college counselor. Success in the college process is driven by wealth rather than intelligence, and testing is a particularly poignant example. 

The College Board is fighting for relevance in a world that is quickly realizing that testing is neither a fair nor accurate way to quantify a student’s intelligence and college readiness. The SAT was created as an intelligence test in the 1900s and intended to sort new non-white immigrant arrivals to the U.S. Beyond its roots in eugenics, the SAT has a long history of favoring white, wealthy students. This disparity was particularly evident in the since-discontinued analogies section, which tested associations such as whether “entomology to insects” is like “pedagogy to education” — something the average 17 year-old doesn’t know without the help of a tutor or test prep class. Minority students are more likely to come from poor families, can’t afford prep classes, score lower and are underrepresented at prestigious universities that weigh test scores heavily in the admissions process. This core bias in the test will not be fixed by moving it online. 

The College Board continues to argue that the SAT and ACT are useful ways to predict college success, stating that the new test will be “easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant.” The College Board’s spokesman, Zach Goldberg, defended the SAT, blaming “the system” rather than tests for inequalities in education. But this lie is rooted in greed. The College Board, a $1.1-billion nonprofit, is implementing testing changes only to keep money flowing. The College Board’s CEO earns almost $2 million annually and the salaries of other top executives go up to $500,000. The federal government endows millions of dollars to the organization. The College Board is pivoting its testing policy to preserve its monopoly on education, not to help students. As long as the SAT and ACT are integral components of the college admissions process and the interests of the wealthy are prioritized, equity issues will remain unaddressed. 

Universities like Emory should follow the CSU system and abolish the testing requirement entirely. Emory is test-optional for the 2022 admissions season, but it is still unclear whether abstaining from testing disadvantages students. A test-optional policy advantages the same students who have always benefitted from testing and does nothing to counter the inequalities ingrained in standardized testing. 

CSU admissions officers instead plan to disregard testing entirely and instead evaluate applicants based on high school GPA in 15 required courses, coursework rigor and extracurricular activities. CSU may implement a minimum GPA requirement to eliminate non-competitive applicants, while still considering high school context, which includes the location of the school and its share of low-income students. Centering GPA in the admission process is more equitable because it accounts for how students succeed in their given situations. A 4.0 at an underfunded public school is equally as impressive as a 4.0 at a private school, as the former showcases the resilience of a student in a less advantageous situation. GPA is even a better predictor of college graduation rate than a test score, because it measures a wider range of skills. 

Emory has a duty to rectify decades of unfair admissions policies by abolishing standardized testing once and for all. The SAT and ACT are racist, classist and outdated. The University must ensure that the College Board’s monopoly on education ends now. 

Sophia Peyser (25C) from Manhattan, New York.