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College Board to cut SAT essay section and subject tests

The College Board announced plans to scrap the optional essay portion of the SAT college entrance exam, as well as discontinue its SAT subject tests, major changes to the ubiquitous college application ritual as a growing number of schools have temporarily stopped requiring the exam due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Beginning this summer, the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the SAT, will no longer automatically include the essay portion of the test and only offer the section in states where it's required for SAT School Day administrations, the organization said in a Tuesday announcement to members shared with CBS News. The group also said it planned to continue working toward developing a digital version of the SAT, but did not provide a timeframe. 

The changes come as the standardized testing group has moved to streamline its test offerings, an effort accelerated by the pandemic.

"As students and colleges adapt to new realities and changes to the college admissions process, the College Board is making sure our programs adapt with them," David Coleman, chief executive officer of the College Board, said in an emailed statement shared with CBS News. "The pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students."

The pandemic has pushed more colleges and universities to reconsider testing requirements. In the past six months, about 500 schools have announced they were waiving standardized test scores from their admissions process, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. For some, the hiatus may become permanent; a handful of colleges have said this might be the start of a new admissions process. Currently, two-thirds of the United States' colleges and universities, nearly 1,600 institutions, have either temporarily or permanently suspended testing requirements, according to the group.

The College Board also announced it would discontinue offering its SAT subject tests, a series of exams in 20 different specific topics intended to enhance a student's college application. The exam will be immediately cut in the United States, phased out by next summer for international students. Because the College Board has expanded its Advanced Placement availability for low-income students, the group said the SAT subject tests were "no longer necessary for students to show what they know."

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