While it may well be a surprise to no one, the number of students in the high school graduating Class of 2021 who took the SAT fell sharply from the high school graduating Class of 2020. For the Class of 2011, about 1.5 million students took the SAT — compared to 2.2 million for the Class of 2020. Of course, the double whammy of test cancelations as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic along with the vast majority of colleges going “test-optional” are to blame for the significant drop in SAT testing. And it’s not like all these students switched to the ACT. While the ACT hasn’t yet issued their report on the number of test-takers in the high school graduating Class of 2021, one that is expected to come out in a few weeks, it’s expected that significantly fewer students took the ACT as well.
As Scott Jaschik reports for Inside Higher Ed in a piece entitled “700,000 Fewer Took the SAT,” “In the Class of 2021, 950,000 students took the SAT on a school day, slightly down from 1.1 million in the Class of 2020 (a 14 percent drop). Over all, 62 percent of the Class of 2021 took the SAT on a school day, compared to 49 percent of the Class of 2020 and 43 percent of the Class of 2019…In terms of how the students who took the SAT did on the exam, they did slightly better — the average SAT score is up slightly for the Class of 2021 — 1060 compared to 1051 for the Class of 2020. However, the College Board said ‘because participation numbers vary so widely from normal years due to the pandemic, it is not possible to compare performance results between the class of 2021 and previous classes.'”
But, remember, just because schools are “test-optional” does not mean students should not take the SAT or ACT and report their test scores. All else being equal, students with great test scores will always have an advantage in elite college admissions over students with no test scores. As Jaschik so writes in his piece, “The Common Application reported that while only 43 percent of those who used its application submitted SAT or ACT scores, the numbers were greater for those applying to more competitive colleges.” This, of course, is not surprising in the least. Many students applying to our nation’s top colleges saw right through the “test-optional” PR spin. They knew to take their tests and they knew it would be to their advantage to submit strong scores.
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