College Board drops the Subject Tests and optional SAT essay

Decision spurred by the pandemic

The College Board officially announced the termination of SAT Subject Tests and the optional essay component on Jan. 19.

The AP exams, which have recently been made feasible for students of all financial backgrounds, made these Subject Tests obsolete. The Subject Tests, which were optional, served as a way for students to show their knowledge and aptitude in a certain course. However, the popularity of AP tests, also administered by the College Board, led the College Board to believe it was redundant for students to take both.

“The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability for low-income students and students of color means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know,” College Board announced.

The announcement to end these tests was expedited by the circumstances of COVID-19.

“The pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students,” the College Board said.

U.S. students who have already signed up and paid for the Subject Tests will be issued a refund. International students will be offered testing in May or June of 2021, as these tests serve for a multitude of purposes in other countries where AP testing is not as popular. 

The termination of the Subject Tests came as an abrupt shock and disappointment for some students who were already dedicated to and preparing for the upcoming exams.

“I think there are pros and cons to the Collegeboard cancelling SAT Subject tests. Initially, I thought it was a negative change, as it put a greater ‘all or nothing’ emphasis on our AP Test results,” junior Anusha Rao wrote to the Talon. “But I now feel like it is a positive change because it actually gives me more time to focus on studying solely for my AP exams, and it equalizes the playing field for the next admissions cycle because I’ve signed up to take a subject test 2 or 3 times and they’ve all been cancelled due to COVID.”

Implemented in 2009, the SAT Essay measured students’ abilities to read and assess prompts, similar to a college writing task. In 2014, however, the College Board revised the SAT from a 2400 point scale to 1600 point scale, making the essay optional in the process. Effective following June 2021, the essay will no longer appear on the exam, as the College Board believes there are more worthwhile writing options available to test students. 

“This decision recognizes that there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing,” the College Board wrote. 

Some students are also agitated by the sudden end of the SAT essay. Though it was optional, some students had poured hours in essay preparation only for it to be terminated.

“As a junior currently in AP English with Mrs. Schultheis, I must say I definitely feel disappointed about this development,” junior Neha Jag wrote to the Talon. “This essay is one we are extensively prepared to write, yet is no longer available to take.”