The University of Virginia announced today that applicants for fall 2017 will not be required to submit the Writing or Essay portion of the “new” or “redesigned” SAT, set to debut in March 2016. In addition, UVa will be dropping the requirement that students take the Writing section of the ACT, which is also set to undergo changes beginning with the September 2015 administration of the test.
While maintaining neutrality when it comes to “which” test a student may elect to submit, UVa has decided that for the time being, they don’t need and won’t consider the writing portions of either exam.
“Some day, we might add it back in, but we will wait to see some research about the exam to have that discussion,” writes Jeannine Lalonde (Dean J) in her widely-read admissions blog, Notes from Peabody.
Uncertainty about the new SAT has led many counselors to recommend the ACT for students not ready to take the old SAT before its last administration in January.
Part of the concern involves the new essay, which will become optional and for which there will be a separate charge—similar to the ACT. The new test will be longer—50 minutes instead of 25—and will be quite a bit more challenging. There are also some questions about the complicated scoring of the new test.
It was originally assumed that most highly-selective colleges would require the SAT with Writing. The announcement from UVa, along with a similar one from the University of Pennsylvania*, puts that assumption into question.
Before automatically signing up to take the writing portion of either the SAT or the ACT, students should check with their colleges to see if a policy has been established covering the writing requirement.
As policies become available, the College Board is compiling information on its website as to which colleges will be requiring or recommending the new essay, but many colleges simply haven’t decided and information is only just beginning to come in.
UVa also announced that the College Board does not consider it appropriate to mix scores form the old SAT with ones from the new SAT. Therefore, if a student opts to take both the old and new versions of the test, admissions will not be superscoring between tests and will need to review both sets of scores if both are submitted. Concordance tables will be used to compare scores among the old and new SAT and the ACT, and admissions will “favor the exam with the better score.”
Clearly this is among the first of many policies to be announced by colleges trying to decide how to handle changes in standardized testing during the coming year. It’s no doubt a blow to the College Board, which hoped the new essay would ultimately strengthen the SAT.
* 8/19/15 Edit