SAT II "Achievement" Tests Are Not a Better Option

University Testing

As criticism of relying on SAT I scores for admissions decisions grows more widespread, some analysts and a few colleges have begun promoting the College Board's SAT II: Subject Tests as an alternative. This trend has minimal justification: very little independent research concerning validity and bias has been performed on the SAT II exams, or Achievement Tests as they were previously named.


Nor has much been said about their educational value. In fact, all the SAT II exams are exclusively multiple-choice, except the Writing Test, which includes one twenty-minute essay. Such multiple-choice tests are widely criticized for dumbing down teaching and learning.


A recent statement by Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences, should serve as a caution to those who advocate a shift to the SAT II. Speaking at a conference sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and quoted in the Fall 1995 issue of that organization s journal, Daedalus, Alberts said, For example, the SAT II: Biology Subject Test, what was formerly the achievement test in biology, is an extreme example of a test that forces the wrong kind of teaching. When we started at the Academy, we went to somebody who was the head of the SAT II at the Educational Testing Service to explain the situation. None of those people seemed to believe or know that their test was destructive of the curriculum. There is a real dissonance, and it is difficult to overcome it.