College Board discontinues SAT Subject Tests, optional SAT Essay to streamline pandemic services


Varsha Rammohan

A stack of SAT-prep books. The College Board announced that administration of SAT Subject Tests and the optional SAT Essay would be eliminated on Tuesday.

by Aditya Singhvi, Aquila Co-Managing Editor

The College Board announced yesterday that they will eliminate SAT Subject Tests and the optional essay component of the SAT and investing in creating a flexible, online version of the regular SAT examination. 

“The pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students,” the announcement stated. “We’re working to provide as many opportunities as possible for students in the class of 2022 to take the SAT this year, including by…allocating seats that would have gone to students taking Subject Tests to students who want to take the SAT.”

Subject test administration in the U.S. will be discontinued immediately, with all registered students automatically receiving refunds. The SAT-with-essay will continue to be offered until June 2021, although students can cancel existing signups for the essay portion for no additional charge. 

Several in-person standardized testing dates have been canceled since March because of coronavirus restrictions. In response, most colleges moved toward either only optionally considering SAT/ACT scores or not considering them at all, occasionally deciding to preserve these changes beyond the pandemic. Notably, the UCs were ordered to go test-blind by an Alameda judge in September 2020. 

“Colleges already have an abundance of information to help them get a clear picture of applicants, even beyond standardized testing,”  upper school college counselor Andrew Quinn said. “And frankly, in my opinion, despite students’ enthusiasm for them, the SAT Subject tests have really been of decreasing importance in the process for some time now.”

For some Harker students, the announcement was met with relief as they already struggled with numerous cancellations to the regular SAT, often driving for hours to find available testing sites. 

“I think my test canceled three times before I was finally able to get a slot that was two hours away, so I had to drive there,” said Melody Luo (11), who took the regular SAT with the optional essay section in December in Woodland, CA. “[That] meant that the test was, in general, pretty inaccessible to people who didn’t have such a socioeconomic background.”

In the announcement, the College Board suggested Advanced Placement (AP) tests as an alternative to SAT Subject tests, touting the AP Program’s “expanded reach” and “widespread availability for low-income students and students of color.” AP examinations cost $95 in the United States, with a $33 fee reduction; SAT Subject Tests are much cheaper, costing $26 with a full fee waiver available to eligible students. 

Quinn does not believe that the lack of subject tests will lead to an uptick in AP testing at Harker, citing the intensive nature of a three-hour AP examination compared to the relative ease of an hour-long subject test. 

“An AP class, which demands so much from students over an entire school year or semester, is very different from a one-hour test,” Quinn said. “Focusing too much on taking APs during high school is a common trap students fall into. The real value in an AP course is the depth of learning students can experience, and not the AP test score.”

Junior Aimee Wang echoed Quinn’s assessment, agreeing with the decision to focus on regular SAT administration. 

“A lot of subject tests are pretty repetitive with regards to AP tests, and it didn’t make much sense to have to take two standardized tests on the same subject to submit to colleges,” Aimee said.

The College Board plans to announce further information about regular SAT testing in the spring as they develop a “more flexible” version of the SAT and aim to add testing dates in the fall.