Harvard admissions office lowers SAT subject test requirement

By Julie M. Zauzmer

Harvard Crimson, Harvard U. via UWIRE

Students applying to Harvard this fall will be required to submit two SAT Subject Test scores, one less than the number required of applicants in previous years.

This change, along with Georgetown’s decision to “strongly recommend” rather than require the submission of three Subject Test scores, marks the end of a three-Subject Test requirement at any university in the nation, according to a National Association for College Admission Counseling report.

Dean of Admission and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons said that the decision—which was made in March by a faculty committee and will affect students vying for spots in the Class of 2015—was arrived at based on a review of the validity of the writing portion of the standard SAT in predicting students’ grades at Harvard.

Fitzsimmons said that the writing test has proven to be “just as good a predictor” of students’ grades at Harvard as another SAT Subject Test.

Before the writing test was introduced in 2005, Harvard required a total of five scores on an 800-point scale from applicants—results from the math and critical reading sections of the SAT, along with three Subject Tests.  The advent of the SAT writing section temporarily increased that number to six before the latest change in Harvard’s policy.

Some Harvard hopefuls said they viewed the new policy as an indication that the Admissions Office will be giving less weight to standardized tests.

“I though maybe Harvard was taking the emphasis off of standardized testing,” said Akaash N. Gupta, a high school senior who plans to apply to Harvard this fall, of his initial reaction to the news that the College will now only require two Subject Test scores.

Katherine Y. Wang, Gupta’s classmate at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia, agreed.

“I’m thinking they’re just not relying as much on standardized testing,” Wang said.

But Fitzsimmons said the change is not a reflection of a depreciation of standardized testing but the implementation of a new arrangement that resembles its pre-writing test policy.

In terms of the number of tests Harvard requires of its applicants, “we’re right back where we were before,” he said.

Despite the decrease in mandatory scores, Fitzsimmons said that he expects some students will submit more scores than are required.

Wang, for example, said she has already taken four of the tests—Math II, Chinese, Biology, and Chemistry.

“They just lined up with my classes,” she said. “I might just submit all four.  I’m pretty happy with them.”

Evan C. Ramsey, a senior at a public high school in California who has already taken three Subject Tests, applauded Harvard’s new policy and said that the change may affect his decision on which scores to submit.

“I’m very happy,” Ramsey said of the new policy. “It wouldn’t completely shatter my hopes if three were required, but it’s kind of nice not to have to worry about that third.”

Ramsey said that since he expected to be required to submit three scores, he started taking the tests during his sophomore year, when he says he was not well enough prepared to score highly on these tests.  He said that two tests is a more reasonable expectation for students.

“It’s good that they’re lowering the requirement,” he said, adding that AP tests and class grades already fulfill a similar evaluative function. “You can see the type of student a person is from two of them—or none at all.”

Read more here: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2010/8/11/tests-harvard-scores-test/
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