A major change in freshman admission requirements for the University of California this year was supposed to ease the burden of standardized test-taking for high school seniors and allow more students to apply.
But the new rules have caused widespread confusion and anxiety among students about whether to take the supplemental tests known as SAT subject exams. To boost their chances of UC admission, thousands of high school seniors are taking the subject exams even though the university has dropped them as a requirement, starting with applications for next fall. UC still requires scores from the main SAT test or its rival, the ACT.
Good subject test scores in any discipline will be a "plus factor" in a freshman application, similar to musical ability or club leadership, UC officials say. Not taking them or doing poorly won't eliminate anyone, they emphasize.
Many high school students and counselors contend that is a bewilderingly mixed message. If taking the subject tests helps some students, they ask, won't not taking them potentially hurt others in the zero sum game of admissions? Adding to the uncertainty is that several UC engineering and science programs recommend subject tests in math and science.