College Board Eliminates SAT Subject Tests and Essay
Vivi E. Lu and Dekyi T. Tsotsong
January 25, 2021
The College Board will permanently eliminate the SAT Subject Tests or SAT with essay to better adapt to the pandemic-era admissions process, the company announced last Tuesday.
“As students and colleges adapt to new realities and changes to the college admissions process, the College Board is making sure our programs adapt with them,” the statement reads. “The pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students.”
While the tests have been canceled for students registered in the U.S., College Board will continue to administer the Subject Tests — exams that assess specific topics, such as Chemistry, World History, or French — and SAT with essay to international students through June 2021.
Jay R. Rosner, executive director of the Princeton Review Foundation, described the use of the SAT Subject Tests and SAT essay in college admissions as “steadily diminishing.”
“The deaths of both the essay and subject tests are several years overdue,” Rosner wrote. “Harvard will eventually see the light and jettison the SAT, but maybe not without a fight.”
Harvard College spokesperson Rachael Dane said the Admissions Office will still review all test materials submitted by applicants.
“Harvard admission officers review all material that an applicant submits, so if a student has already taken Subject Tests or the essay portion of the SAT, they may still submit it along with their other application materials,” Dane wrote.
Harvard College — along with its peer institutions — removed standardized test requirements for this year’s application cycle given the challenge of scheduling tests with Covid-19 restrictions.
Brian Taylor, managing director of private college consulting service Ivy Coach, said College Board’s decision was “entirely predictable.”
“This was an entirely predictable move by College Board,” Taylor said. “When certain elite schools make a move, other universities soon thereafter follow their lead. College Board read the writing on the wall.”
In eliminating the SAT Subject Tests, College Board could make AP exams — end-of-course tests offered by the same company — more profitable, Taylor speculated.
“AP exams are already hugely important in highly selective college admissions,” Taylor wrote. “This move by College Board hammers home their importance.”
“These exams, which went online last year, are also more of a revenue driver for College Board,” he added. “Each test costs test-takers around $95, whereas SAT Subject Tests cost test-takers around $26.”
Conner M. Huey, an admitted student to the Class of 2025, had taken one SAT Subject Test, but not the SAT due to the limited availability of testing centers. He wrote in an email that he had “mixed feelings” about the removal of the Subject Tests.
“In a way, it definitely makes college admissions less driven by test scores and more holistic, which I greatly appreciate,” Huey wrote.
“I am concerned, however, that this will lead to increased stress for students since they may feel the need to compensate for what would have been excellent Subject Test scores,” he added. “In a sense, I think by removing the pressure of more standardized tests for students, I believe another pressure has been amplified.”
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