Death of the SAT Subject Tests and Essay: Good or Bad?

by Madison Li ‘22

Source: Enhanced Prep

Published Feb. 25th 2021

On January 19th, 2021, the College Board made a shocking announcement: the SAT Subject Tests would be discontinued. These “subject-based standardized tests” have been used to evaluate students’ proficiencies in a variety of topics for almost a century and were frequently used in the college admissions process as an indicator of students’ academic achievement. However, the College Board now claims that the tests are no longer necessary to demonstrate a student’s aptitude or potential, due to the wider accessibility and popularity of AP courses/exams. They also cited concern for students’ wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a need to focus on their new goal of creating an online SAT, as other reasons for the discontinuation of the SAT Subject Tests.

This news was likely met by exuberant, relieved cheers from students all over America. No longer having to worry about a couple of extra exams is good for two reasons. First of all, there’s obviously less stress for students. We can focus on other parts of our college applications, such as grades and extracurriculars, and consequently, colleges are forced to place greater significance on qualitative aspects of an applicant. In the last couple of years, the use of the SAT Subject Tests has already been decreasing in the admissions process, even before 2020. Since the pandemic, most colleges have dropped standardized test requirements anyway, going test-optional or test-blind. What this means is that the loss of the SAT Subject Tests likely won’t affect most students’ college applications too much. Second, by discontinuing the subsidiary SAT Subject Tests, the fundamental SAT can be prioritized at test centers. It’s particularly difficult this year for students to sit for any College Board exam; the ever-changing nature of the pandemic has caused hundreds of thousands of students to have their testing dates canceled. With the SAT Subject Tests out of the way, test centers will be solely available for the SAT.

Despite these benefits, the canceling of SAT Subject Tests could have negative effects on certain demographics: high-achieving students who excel on standardized tests and/or wish to demonstrate their mastery of subjects they did not take in school. Many top colleges previously required or recommended students to take subject tests, since it’d show both their knowledge and commitment to academic accomplishment. However, now that this metric is lost, such students lose another way to stand out from the rest of the applicant pool. 

In the big picture, though, a handful of kids losing this advantage is definitely not a huge deal, considering the removal of a stress factor from all students’ lives and the greater availability of test centers for SAT test-takers. The College Board undoubtedly made a wise decision in discontinuing the SAT Subject Tests!

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