CollegeBoard Discontinues SAT Subject Tests and the SAT’s Optional Essay

  • January 28, 2021
(Image Courtesy of Creative Commons)

 Elyse Hwang contributed to this article. 

On January 19th, 2021, College Board announced that they would be removing SAT Subject tests and the optional SAT essay in the U.S. permanently. 

The College Board explained its reasoning behind the elimination of the SAT subject tests on the CollegeBoard blog, writing, “We’re reducing demands on students. The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know.”

Also, the use of SAT subject tests in evaluating prospective students has been losing its popularity as a method to further evaluate a student and for students themselves to edge out their peers to enter the desired university of their choosing. Three years ago, “Harvard University and numerous other highly selective schools dropped their requirement for [the submitting of] an essay score. Last year, University of California officials took the same step as part of a larger policy shift”.   

Other significant concerns accelerated the removal of the SAT subject tests. According to Apple News, an “analysis by Inside Higher Ed found that the lowest average scores for each part of the SAT came from students with less than $20,000 in family income, while the highest scores came from those with more than $200,000 in family income.” To  eliminate such disparities and to lessen the burden on students during the pandemic, College Board decided upon the tests’ termination. 

On the other hand, according to the same source, “more and more students and parents have argued that the [subject] tests should be optional permanent[ly].” As mentioned previously, College Board stated that the tests seem to “overlap with the College Board’s Advanced Placement testing program. So a student who scored well on an AP calculus test might wonder why it would be necessary to also take an SAT subject test in math.”  In fact, compared to the number of students taking SAT subject tests, “more than 1.2 million students in the high school Class of 2019 took at least one AP test”. 

Throughout the LCHS community, opinions differ on the elimination of the tests. Some are worried that the lack of subject tests will cause colleges to put more emphasis on AP’s, which are already stressful enough. Others are relieved that they no longer have to take yet another standardized test. 

Meanwhile, several underclassmen were not even aware that the College Board offered SAT subject tests. Melia Li (10) inquired “What’s the SAT [subject test]?” when asked about her thoughts on the elimination of the SAT subject tests. 

The majority of the students interviewed considered both of the choice’s pros and cons. Savannah Tang (10) remarked that “This can be an advantage for those who don’t want to take it[-] their dream colleges used to require two SAT subject tests.” Nevertheless, she also noted that “It could be a disadvantage for those who are really good at taking tests.”

Ryan Kuo (11) sided with the College Board, writing that “They should have made that decision quite a while ago…Think of all of those students who have been studying for [the SAT subject tests] and all of a sudden, skadoosh, [they’re] gone.” He also wondered if the elimination of these tests “gave students who have already taken them advantages over students who couldn’t.” 

Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid at Yale University, also supported the decision. According to Quinlan, Yale recently stopped considering SAT subject test scores and stated that the SAT’s optional essay had limited value, disclosing “The essay score never really became a part of our review process”.   

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