Aug 7, 2010

Harvard, Georgetown, and Others Change SAT Subject Test™ Policies for 2010-11

Without much fanfare, Harvard, Georgetown and several other universities changed long-standing application policies concerning the submission of SAT Subject Tests™. Until this year, Harvard and Georgetown were the last two colleges in the U.S. to require all students to take and submit scores for three Subject Tests.

Possibly signaling a reduced role for standardized testing, Harvard will only require two SAT Subject Tests for students applying to be admitted for the fall of 2011. According to the Harvard website, applicants may not submit two Subject Tests in mathematics, and candidates whose first language is not English should “ordinarily not use a Subject Test in their first language.”

Applicants are encouraged to convey the “breadth of their academic interests” by taking tests in different subject areas and to submit additional test scores including AP and IB that provide evidence of academic accomplishment.

Georgetown is a little more subtle in approach. For 2010-11, it is now “strongly recommended” that all candidates, whether they have taken the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT, submit three SAT Subject Test scores. In the past, these scores were “requested.” Note that in the college admissions business, recommend usually translates to require. Nevertheless, the change in language leaves open the question of what role these scores actually play in Georgetown's admissions.

These shifts in policy leave the University of Toronto as the only postsecondary institution requiring the submission of three SAT Subject Test Scores as part of a complete application for admission for all applicants.

Along similar lines, other colleges expanded policies allowing the substitution of ACT for SAT Subject Test scores. So far this year, Rice and Brandeis have joined a growing number of colleges no longer requiring Subject Tests from students taking the ACT with Writing. Some colleges with these policies include Amherst, Boston College, Boston University, Bryn Mawr, Duke, Haverford, McGill, Pomona, Swarthmore, Tufts, Penn, Wellesley, Wesleyan, Williams, and Yale.

Further complicating the evolving role of SAT Subject Tests, a few colleges are allowing these and other standardized tests (AP, IB) to be submitted instead of SAT and/or ACT scores. Bryn Mawr, Colby, Colorado College, Furman, NYU, Middlebury, and UMUC fall into this category.

Locally, Johns Hopkins continues to “recommend” three subject tests. Across the Potomac, Washington and Lee still requires two “unrelated” SAT Subject tests, while UVa “strongly recommends” the submission of two subject test scores.

Catholic University recommends either a Subject Test or an AP/IB exam in language for Arts/Sciences and Philosophy candidates. GW requires or recommends Subject Tests for accelerated programs. For example, BA/MD candidates must take both a math and a science Subject Test, and the Honors Program recommends any two Subject Tests.

Several colleges will “consider” subject test scores if submitted. In the DC area, Goucher, William and Mary, Mary Washington, and the University of Richmond fall into this camp.

No doubt the guys in Princeton, New Jersey are watching these developments closely. With market share and revenue at stake, each shift in admissions policy has some impact on their bottom line. What started as a conversation about the role of SAT’s and the College Board in admissions has turned into a clear trend toward less reliance on scores and greater flexibility for students.

Thanks to Cigus Vanni, NACAC Professional Development Committee, as well as to the folks at Fair Test and the Compass Education Group for working so hard to keep ahead of shifting sands in standardized testing. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, students are advised to go directly to individual college websites.

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