U.C. Drops SAT Subject Tests

University Testing

FairTest Examiner, March 2009

Effective with the class entering in the fall of 2012, the University of California system (U.C.) will no longer require applicants to submit scores from two College Board SAT Subject Tests. The new policy is part of a broad-reaching overhaul of U.C. admissions requirements designed to make more students eligible for a “comprehensive review” of their credentials (see Examiner, April 2008). 

Detailed research at U.C. determined that the Subject Test rule was excluding many otherwise qualified applicants but not helping predict undergraduate performance. U.C. President Mark Yudof called the exams “an unnecessary barrier” to access. Proponents of Subject Test elimination predict that the change will result in more ethnic and income diversity in entering classes without any loss of academic quality.

The exams, previously labeled SAT II Tests and, before that, Achievement Tests, are all one-hour long and multiple-choice in format. They have been criticized as extremely narrow and susceptible to coaching. Former president of the National Academy of Sciences Bruce Alberts called the Biology version, “An extreme example of a test that forces the wrong kind of teaching.”

The U.C. decision may have significant implications for the future of the SAT Subject Tests. For the high school class of 2008, more than 37% of all Subject Tests in the U.S. were administered to Californians (in contrast to just 13.5% of the basic SAT Reasoning Test). No more than several dozen admissions offices outside the U.C. system mandate Subject Test score submission. Loss of the key California market could threaten the financial viability of the exams, which currently cost students a $20 registration fee plus $9 for each test taken on the same day.