College Board Eliminates The SAT Subject Tests and The SAT Essay

The College Board announced Tuesday that it will discontinue those assessments. Citing the coronavirus crisis, officials said the pandemic has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students.”
── Nick Anderson.Jan. 20, 2021. College Board is scrapping SAT’s optional essay and subject tests. The Washington Post.


This year, the College Board is eliminating the SAT Subject Tests program and the SAT Essay. Other than that, a testing organization in New York also revealed the launch of a process to revise the main SAT so that students could take the test on electronic devices. David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, mentioned that the organization is not pursuing a take home exam and will provide more details in April.


This change is closely related to the impact of Covid-19. Starting from Spring 2020, many high school students struggle with finding the time and location for taking the SAT. According to the numbers College Board reported in 2020, 2.2 million students registered for the SAT, but only 900,000 of them completed the test as numerous test centers closed due to the pandemic. Many universities have announced that standardized tests are no longer a requirement for college applications.


In fact, the SAT Subject Tests program and the SAT Essay have lost their influence even before the pandemic. Fewer schools were requiring students to take these exams and many experts questioned its value. 


[SAT Subject Test]

The College Board said it will no longer offer subject tests to U.S. students, effective immediately, and it will phase them out for international students by next summer.
── Nick Anderson.Jan. 20, 2021. College Board is scrapping SAT’s optional essay and subject tests. The Washington Post.


SAT II Subject Tests are exams that contain multiple choice questions which last for an hour and each has a maximum score of 800. The exams cover discrete subjects such as math, literature, history, biology, chemistry, physics and various foreign languages. These tests allow students to show their adequacy and proficiency in certain subjects and prove their competitiveness. For many years, many universities, including Ivy League schools, recommended, encouraged or enforced students to submit the SAT Subject Tests in addition to their current applications. In the high school class of 2017, around 220,000 students registered for at least one subject test. 


However, the tests are overlapping somehow with the College Board’s Advanced Placement testing program. AP tests are longer and include free response questions which provide students with a more flexible and discriminative test method. According to Coleman, due to the similarity between the AP tests and SAT Subject tests, the SAT subject tests are less necessary. More than 1.2 million students in the high school Class of 2019 took at least one AP test. The College Board said it will no longer offer subject tests to U.S. students, effective immediately, and stopped offering them to international students starting from summer. 


[SAT Essay Writing]

The SAT essay will continue to be offered through June to anyone who wants to take it. After that, the College Board said, it will be available only in certain states, including Delaware and Oklahoma, that use the SAT for school accountability measurement and offer the test during the school day.
── Nick Anderson.Jan. 20, 2021. College Board is scrapping SAT’s optional essay and subject tests. The Washington Post.


The main SAT test takes about three hours, has one section of math and one section of fact based writing and reading. Each section is worth up to 800 points. Students can decide if they want to take the optional SAT essay, which is another 50 minutes. Its score is reported separately and does not factor into the main score. 1.2 million students in the high school Class of 2020 took the essay test, which is more than 50% of the students who took the exam.


However, in recent years, many universities have found that this essay score is not helpful for application admission measurement. Starting from 2018, many top universities, including Harvard University, no longer require students to submit essay scores. Last year, University of California also took the same step as the beginning of the phasing out of SAT and ACT scores.


Although some universities still require students to submit their SAT essay scores, many students still feel anxious about whether they should take the essay option, and whether their essay scores are good enough to achieve their goals and to apply for their dream schools. Now, the College Board has decided to end the students’ nightmares by canceling the SAT essay test in most places. For students who want to take the test, they can still take it until June. After that, only certain states, including Delaware and Oklahoma, will be offering the test for schools who use the SAT for accountability measurement.


Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid at Yale University, applauded this announcement. Yale University stopped accepting the SAT Subject Test scores recently and agreed that the optional essay had limited value. According to Quinlan, “The essay score never really became a part of our review process.” Quinlan shows support in the revisions that the College Board made for the SAT. He is looking forward to the SAT being more flexible, and accessible and available in a digital format.


What it means for

  • We might need to revise our standardized test advising strategy. This is especially bad news for our local students, who tend to excel in the subject tests (most of our local kids taking ML2 and STEM subjects get 800s). With the SAT Subject Test gone, they have one less outlet to show their academic level. We should encourage students to take more APs, especially ones relevant to their future majors.

👉 Click here to see <<What is AP>> 


  • We will now lose an option for test flexible schools (eg. NYU).
  • We ask students to do more academic-relevant extracurriculars, especially for students who want to major in STEM related fields, this might mean that research done and science track record become more important.

👉 Click here to see PANO’s extracurriculars 


  • International students can still take May/June SAT IIs. In terms of admissions, the effect would probably be similar to what we see when schools go test flexible – because we now need less things to apply. More students will try to shoot higher, and it will be harder to stand out.


👉 Official announcement from College Board


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