SAT Options, Not SAT Optional


By Gerry Boyle '78

Colby applicants now have a third choice as they consider which standardized test scores to submit. Applicants to the Class of 2014 are no longer required to submit scores from the College Board Reasoning Test (SAT) or the American College Test (ACT) if they choose to submit three different SAT Subject Tests (formerly SAT II).

The change follows three years of study of the role of standardized tests in Colby’s admissions process. Last fall a faculty-led group recommended the change as a way for the College to move toward its goals of building a more diverse applicant pool and providing a more accurate way to predict student performance at Colby. The new policy was approved by the Board of Trustees in October.

The study group found that the three-choice policy:

  • Allows students with a particular strength to showcase their achievement.
  • Adds  an  opportunity  for  students  from underrepresented groups to submit a language SAT Subject Test to help fulfill Colby’s test requirement.
  • Recognizes  that  the  results  on  the  SAT Reasoning Test have been found to be affected by family income more than SAT Subject Tests. Students from more affluent families tend to do better on reasoning tests. The change offers economically challenged students an opportunity to show their academic ability. 
  • Is consistent with Colby’s finding that  the third SAT Subject Test is a better predictor of first-year success than the SAT Reasoning Test.

“Each of these alone is kind of a small thing, but when you add them all up it’s a considerable advantage,” said Steve Saunders, Charles A. Dana Professor of Music and a member of the study group. The change will be implemented for a five-year trial period, beginning with the 2009-10 admission cycle. During this trial the College will evaluate the three-choice policy to see how or if it affects admissions process and the student body.

Admissions policies regarding standardized tests vary among Colby’s peer schools. Standardized tests are optional at Bowdoin and Bates. Williams requires the SAT Reasoning Test plus two SAT Subject Tests. Middlebury’s requirements are the same as Colby’s.

Saunders said the three-choice model was an incremental change made after a broad range of views was explored, with some study-group members advocating making SATs optional and others calling for requiring both the SAT Reasoning Tests and additional Subject Tests. “I think this is a good move for Colby,” Saunders said.

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  • On April 14, 2009, Joyce Vining Morgan wrote:
    It would be a great advantage to students who study some of the less-commonly taught languages, like Arabic and Russian etc which do not have Subject Tests or AP tests, if you could also include nationally-normed proficiency tests, which are available through various professional and educational organizations.