SAT Participation Increases but Remains Below Pre-Pandemic Levels

Many colleges have dropped SAT and ACT admission requirements due to the pandemic, and participation in the SAT remains well below its pre-pandemic peak.

Published September 30, 2022

Edited by Darlene Earnest
SAT Participation Increases but Remains Below Pre-Pandemic Levels
Higher Ed Policy
Photo by Mario Tama / Getty Images News / Getty Images

  • Roughly 1.7 million 2022 high school graduates took the SAT at least once, according to the College Board.
  • That figure is up from roughly 1.5 million for the class of 2021, but it remains well below pre-pandemic levels.
  • More than 2.2 million students from the class of 2019 took the test at least once.
  • Many colleges dropped SAT and ACT requirements during the pandemic, and some have already extended that moratorium for years.

Participation in the SAT increased for 2022 high school graduates compared to 2021 — but remained far below its peak from before the pandemic.

Roughly 1.7 million students of the high school class of 2022 took the SAT at least once, the College Board announced Wednesday. That number is an increase from 1.5 million for the graduating class of 2021, but it is roughly 500,000 less than the test's peak participation for the class of 2019.

More than 2.2 million students in the high school graduating class of 2019 took the SAT at least once, according to the College Board. That was an all-time high for the standardized test, which debuted in 1926.

SAT participation remained over 2 million for the class of 2020, since many of those students took the test before the COVID-19 pandemic. SAT participation then plummeted for the class of 2021 as the pandemic upended testing and many colleges dropped the SAT and ACT admission requirements.

Nearly 80% of baccalaureate-granting colleges don't require the SAT or ACT due to pandemic concerns, BestColleges reported earlier this year.

In 2020, the University of California system suspended standardized tests for admission until 2024. Other college systems across the country have since made similar moves away from the once-required standardized tests.

Some private universities, including Ivy League schools, have also suspended the test. Harvard, in 2021, suspended standardized testing requirements for undergraduate applicants as far out as the incoming class of 2030. Cornell and Columbia have also announced multiyear extensions of standardized test suspensions.

The private California Institute of Technology announced in August that it was extending its moratorium on SAT and ACT score requirements until 2025 — and that it wouldn't consider applicants' test scores even if they are submitted, BestColleges previously reported.

Colleges' move away from the SAT and ACT also comes as data shows that going test-optional generally increases college accessibility and diversity. BestColleges previously reported that various studies showed an increase in applications and enrollments from historically underserved and underrepresented students.

The College Board is planning a wide-ranging overhaul of the SAT, including making the test entirely digital by 2024 in a bid to decrease the overall time needed to complete the test.

The College Board will also make reading passages shorter, issue unique test forms to students, and allow students to use a calculator for the entire math section, BestColleges previously reported.

"The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, more secure, and more relevant," Priscilla Rodriguez, the College Board's senior vice president for college readiness assessments, said in the release. "We're not simply putting the current SAT on a digital platform — we're taking full advantage of what delivering an assessment digitally makes possible. We're listening to educators and students and we're adapting to meet their evolving needs."