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College Board is Dropping Subject Tests and the Essay Portion of the SAT: What This Means For You

Quick Summary: 

  • The College Board said on Tuesday, January 19, 2021, that it will stop administering the SAT Subject Tests. It will also eliminate the optional essay-writing component after June 2021.

  • In their statement, the College Board shared that the pandemic “accelerated a process already underway … to reduce and simplify demands on students.” It also plans to pursue a “more flexible” SAT that could be delivered online.

  • There are other ways for you to demonstrate your writing skills – English classes, AP exams, and college essays.

  • Dropping the SAT subject tests places more emphasis on the AP tests. For those who have their subject test scores, college admissions offices have yet to announce their decision regarding those scores.


Insights into the College Board’s Decision 

Today, the College Board made the shocking announcement that it will stop administering the SAT Subject tests effective immediately in the US and effective after the June 2021 administration internationally. The College Board will also be dropping the Essay portion of the SAT after the June 2021 administration of the test. For many students, this changes how they might approach course selection, testing in the near term, and a longer-term strategy intended to show their academic strengths. The ramifications of these changes are not completely obvious yet because how the colleges will interpret these changes in the admissions context remains to be seen. But let’s talk about what this means for you:


Let’s start with the easy piece – the SAT Essay. The essay has realized a diminished value over the last few years. While it used to be a required portion of the test and the admissions process, it has increasingly become optional from both the College Board side and the university admissions side. There are so many ways in which students can demonstrate their writing abilities – English grades, AP exams, college essays, or graded writing samples, to name a few, that this change is really of little significance. It will allow students to focus on the multiple-choice sections as well as to reduce the overall length of their exam. So really, this change is important but won’t have a significant impact on Insight students and their planning.


Now onto the harder question discussing the impact of dropping the Subject Tests. College Board stated that it was dropping these exams because the Advanced Placement (AP) Exams are becoming more accessible to all students and as a result, students shouldn’t have to take both exams. Now whether or not we philosophically and professionally agree with this statement, we have to make sure that we adapt to this changing environment and provide the very best advice to you.


How Will The Universities Responding? What Does This Mean For College Admissions?

Last year, the UCs went test-blind for SAT and ACT as part of the admissions process, but they still allowed students to enter their Subject Test Scores and AP Scores on their UC Applications. Other universities dropped the use of SAT Subject Tests, but they still gave the students the option to submit AP Exam, SAT, or ACT scores. It is very possible that some or many colleges will still welcome students to submit these scores.


If you currently have Subject Test scores, we will have to wait to hear from colleges about what they will and will not allow. If you do not have Subject Test scores and were planning to take them this year for the first time, do not worry. Many students are in this same situation and you will NOT be penalized.


We are going to keep on top of this major change with colleges and make sure our advice is updated and accurate. If you’d like to meet with a counselor and get help navigating the rapidly shifting college admissions landscape, please do not hesitate to contact us and schedule your 1-hour college planning session, in which our experienced counselor will tailor your college admissions strategy based on academic performance, testing options, extracurricular activities, and more!


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