College Board drops SAT essay & SAT subject tests

schoolchild solving elementary science test
Julia de Raadt
Julia de Raadt

Julia has dedicated much of her career to education. Since commencing with Empowerly, Julia has looked after the research team which handles student questions on different topics about college admission.

SAT confirms they have dropped some test elements for good. The College Board announced that it would discontinue the optional SAT essay and SAT subject tests. The reasons cited were to reduce the demands on students and adapt to the changing needs of students and colleges.

On January 19, the College Board announced that it would discontinue the optional SAT essay and SAT subject tests. Reasons cited include goals of reducing the demands on students and adapting to the changing needs of students and colleges. It also recognized that AP courses have been made more widely available and as a result the tests are in greater demand, negating the need for SAT subject tests. More than 22,000 schools offered AP courses in the 2019-20 school year, up from more than 13,000 two decades earlier.  

Further to this, the College Board revealed that it would be launching a process to revise the main SAT. The revision would make it more flexible and streamlined. It would also be offered digitally. Currently the College Board is consulting with the education industry and propose to share more on this work this spring.

As a result, this announcement likely heralds a full season of changes to come, as all educational institutions adapt to change.

Why scrap these tests? 

There has been decreasing emphasis on standardized testing with many institutions questioning their role in college admissions. While standardized testing claims to offer a universal measure of a student’s educational ability in a highly diverse high school education system, it has not leveled the playing field for students. Instead, it barred students from less privileged backgrounds. Many also view high school GPA as a better predictor of college success. 

When the pandemic hit, thousands of student were left with nowhere to take them. This pushed most colleges to drop their testing requirements. With the combined effect of many colleges already going test optional as well as the pandemic, it was just a matter of time before the College Board would be forced rethink its role in college admissions. 

What about the ACT essay test? 

The ACT has to date, made no announcement on whether it will scrap its own essay test, but some predict they will soon follow suit.  Many colleges who required the SAT/ACT did not require the essay component. With the essay test in less demand, the ACT could also decide to drop its own test. 

What should I do, now that both aren’t required?

Don’t stress!  Many are worried that rather than reducing stress, students will only be placed under more stress,  with fewer tools to demonstrate ability. Students may feel the need to compensate, taking on additional AP tests instead. Rather than stress, celebrate that you have one less thing to worry about. 

Take an AP test if you have taken the AP course and feel confident.  If you think the test will demonstrate what you have learnt in the course,  then by all means give it a go. But don´t take on additional AP tests to make up for the lost opportunity to take the subject test. 

Focus on your college application essays. These essay prompts offer you the opportunity to demonstrate your writing strengths, but unlike the SAT essay, there is no  time constraint and you have more choice on what to write about. 

Get involved in extracurricular activities that demonstrate your deeper understanding of a subject. Many students took subject tests to showcase their deeper understanding of a particular subject. They were especially popular amongst engineering and premed applicants where subject knowledge in the natural sciences is emphasized. Instead of subject tst, do extracurricular activities that offer you the opportunity to deepen your knowledge and demonstrate your ability and understanding. 

What if I have taken it, can I still submit it?

Colleges haven’t altered their own test policies since the College Board dropped these tests. So if you have already taken it, and had planned on submitting, then you can still do so!


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