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We are committed to providing you with the most up-to-date resources and announcements from the college admissions testing landscape. Here are some of the top headlines from this past month:


Princeton, Stanford, and Brown Drop the SAT/ACT Essay Requirement

Summary: Last Thursday, Princeton and Stanford became the latest elite schools to drop the SAT/ACT essay requirement. In a released statement, Stanford indicated that it would “strongly recommend” that applicants still submit an essay score, but the mandate is gone for students who hope for acceptance in 2019. In place of the essay, Princeton now requires all applicants to submit a graded writing sample from high school, preferably in English or history. Not to be outdone, Brown announced this week that it, too, will drop the essay requirement for this year’s applications. Brown also recommends that student submit a graded paper from a recent course (in English, history, economics, or other humanities or social science courses) as a supplement to the application. As of last week, Brown was the last of the Ivies to still require the essay. All three schools indicated that this change would help alleviate the financial burden on students. Detractors argue that the essay portion of the SAT and ACT should remain a requirement, because it does a better job at assessing a student’s actual writing skills than an admissions essay or a graded paper, both of which can be heavily edited or, in some cases, written by parents or college counselors. Only 22 schools continue to require an essay score.

What this means: 

  • With all the Ivies now on board, it really does seem that it’s only a matter for time before the SAT and ACT essay requirements go out the door.

  • Note that although Stanford no longer requires the essay, it sits in that grey area of strongly recommending the essay. Every student applying will likely need guidance on exactly what that means for their unique case.

Princeton and Stanford Drop Requirements for Essay Testing (Washington Post)

Princeton and Stanford Drop SAT/ACT Writing Test (Inside Higher Ed)

Stanford to Stop Requiring SAT/ACT Essay Scores (The Stanford Daily)

Updated Application Requirements (Princeton University)

U. Drops ACT/SAT Essay Requirement, Now Requires Graded Writing Sample (Daily Princetonian)

Brown Eliminates SAT Essay, ACT Writing Test Requirement for Applicants (Brown University)

Save the SAT Writing test (Wall Street Journal)


Low June SAT Scores in Math Confuse and Anger Students

Summary: Students and parents are upset after scores from the Math section of the June SAT came back far lower than expected. The College Board released an email explaining that the lower scores are due to an “equating” process. The June SAT Math section was significantly easier than earlier administrations of the test, so it was graded on a curve, resulting in comparatively lower scores. An analysis by the Princeton Review pointed out that the heavier curve on an easier test means that there is less of a cushion for careless errors. In addition to the issues with the Math section, two questions were thrown out on both the Reading and Writing sections, indicating that four questions on those sections were flawed.

What this means: 

  • Equating is a valuable process to ensure that students don’t have an advantage or disadvantage based on the month they take the exam. However, equating can result in fluctuations like this.
  • Although equating is important, this June’s fluctuation is one of the largest we’ve seen on the exam, and the size is the reason for all the anger. What we are witnessing here is the College Board still ironing out the kinks of the new SAT as the CB develops additional questions in the new format and gets used to making sure questions are standard across each test.

An “Easy” SAT and Terrible Scores (Inside Higher Ed)

Why You Don’t Want an “Easy” SAT (The Princeton Review)


College Board Adds Years Back to the AP World History Exam

Summary: The College Board has responded to intense backlash over its recent decision to start AP World History content at the year 1450 CE—which would have eliminated instruction on nearly 10,000 years of human history—and announced a new plan for the exam. Beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, the College Board plans to offer two separate tests. AP World History: Modern will begin instruction with the year 1200 CE, which includes a more diverse study of civilizations in Africa, the Americas, and Asia. The College Board also intends to offer AP World History: Ancient for those who want more in-depth coverage of world history, though confirmation of interest among high schools and colleges is needed before development on this test begins.

What this means: 

  • No matter what the College Board did here, it wasn’t going to please everyone. The move back to 1200 CE does help expand the course focus to include non-Eurocentric periods and groups; at the same time, it still limits the content teachers and students need to cover to a more manageable chunk.
  • It’s not clear yet how many schools will be interested in the AP World History: Ancient course and if it’s even viable. It will likely hinge on the popularity of the Pre-AP program launching this year; Pre-AP History courses will cover some of the material that would likely be included in an ancient history course.
  • The change will impact students preparing for the World History Subject Test no matter what. The Subject Test will still cover all of human history, meaning if a student takes the new AP World History: Modern, he’s likely to need outside studying to learn the earlier content if he hopes to score well on the Subject Test.

After Outcry, College Board Restores 250 Years to Proposed AP History Course (Education Week)

Update on AP World History (AP Central)

College Board Restores 250 Years to AP World History Course After Outcry over Plan to Cut 9000 Years (Washington Post)