College Board Eliminates SAT Essay and Subject Tests

The College Board announced that it is eliminating the SAT Subject Tests and optional SAT Essay for future test administrations in an attempt to “reduce demands on students,” according to the company website, on January 19.
The change comes after many SATs were canceled last year, resulting in a shift to a “test-optional” policy for colleges and the suspension of the standardized testing requirement until at least 2024 for the University of California (UC) system, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
SAT Subject Tests, offered in subjects like US History, Chemistry, and French, allowed students to demonstrate their knowledge in specific areas, but most colleges did not require them, according to the website of test preparation company PrepScholar. The SAT Essay, taken in 50 minutes at the end of the SAT, asked students to read a passage and analyze an author’s argument, but it was also not required by many universities. (UC schools did require the SAT with Essay until they adopted the test-optional policy.)
For students in the United States, no further SAT Subject Tests will be administered, and the optional essay will be discontinued after the June 2021 test date.
College and Career Center advisor Joan Batcheller said that the change will “make the college admissions process more seamless and easier.”
“If students don’t need to worry about Subject tests and the Essay Writing portion in the SAT, it will provide them with more opportunities to pursue what’s really important—extracurricular activities, volunteer options, and internships,” said Batcheller. “I believe this is a welcome change. It will ease what is already a complex admission process for students.”
Senior Justine Ellery, who took both the SAT with Essay and SAT Subject Tests, said that the essay component “almost felt like an afterthought” and the Subject Tests felt “unnecessary because they often covered topics similar to the AP exams, but they weren’t nearly as in-depth.”
Batcheller believes that this suggests that Advanced Placement (AP) tests and scores will “become a more important part of the admissions process.” AP exams, the culmination of year-long AP courses, allow students to earn college credit if they earn a high enough score.
Junior Cathy Kenderski, who planned to take 2 SAT Subject Tests, said she felt “relieved” when she heard the news.
“I took AP Bio my sophomore year, and while I felt prepared for the June test, I felt that by November I was no longer adequately familiar with the content of the course. I also planned to take Math 2 in the fall, and I had not started studying for that, so I’m glad that that is no longer on my radar,” Kenderski said. “I think this increases reliance on AP scores. I’ve done well on my AP tests I’ve taken so far, so I feel that the change positively affects me.”
Ellery added that the “overall shift away from test scores will put a greater emphasis on grades,” which she believes “are more telling of a student’s work ethic and capabilities.”
While junior April Mao said that she “feels a bit relieved” that she will have “less tests to worry about on top of all [her] schoolwork,” the change “does make the application process more worrisome” because it may emphasize “non-academic things and sometimes those non-academic things are predicated on outside connections.”
However, Mao believes that it may have positive implications for equity. “It probably also may decrease the class divide [because] some people don’t have the means to take these tests,” she said.
“The pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students,” College Board Communications posted on January 19. In addition to eliminating the SAT Essay and Subject Tests, the company is working to invest in a “more flexible SAT—a streamlined, digitally delivered test that meets the evolving needs of students and higher education.”
All of the changes, as well as the cancellation of many standardized tests in light of the pandemic, have made the college application process more stressful for many juniors. “I feel like I don’t know what is going on anymore with standardized tests and the SAT [because] a lot of people I talked to have had their SAT canceled,” said Mao, who has had her tests canceled 4 times.
Mao added that there is “definitely more anxiety” because there are fewer chances for students to take their exams.