(Illustration by Natalie Park)

College Board cancels subject tests, optional SAT essay

On Jan. 19 the College Board announced it was scrapping the Scholastic Aptitude Test Subject Tests and the optional essay. 

The SAT Subject Tests are hour-long, multiple-choice tests scored on a 200 to 800 point scale. The number of questions changes for each subject.

In the past, the College Board offered subjects tests in 20 different subjects covering math, science, English, history and multiple languages. Students took the subject tests on chosen subjects to demonstrate their aptitude in it.

Subject tests were also required or highly recommended for some college programs. 

The SAT is a standardized test that measures students’ abilities in reading, math and writing. SAT scores are used in the college admissions process.

The SAT essay was made optional in 2016 as part of a redesign. It was a 50-minute essay on a given passage. While it was optional, some schools did require or recommend it. 

According to the College Board, it decided to eliminate the essay and subject tests because advanced placement tests held in May have more availability and cover more subjects than the SAT subject tests. 

The increasing popularity of the AP exams over the subject tests has been evident. In 2000, 768,000 subject tests were taken and 1,272,317 AP exams were taken. In 2015, 604,286 subject tests were taken and 4,704,980 AP exams, according to Compass Education Group, a test prep and academic tutoring company. 

The essay, according to the College Board, is not necessary because there are other ways to demonstrate essay writing skills. Also, writing and editing skills will still be measured through the Reading and Writing Language section of the SAT.

According to the College Board, the pandemic accelerated a process that was already underway to simplify the work and demands required of students.

Country Day’s Director of College Counseling Jane Bauman said that this move didn’t come as a surprise.

“The College Board, although not for profit, is a business, and it responds to the market,” she said. “The board is dropping the SAT Subject Tests and the SAT essay because there isn’t a market for them. Colleges have realized that the SAT Subject Tests are outdated and are a barrier to admission. As for the SAT essay, only about 25 schools (including the 9 UC’s) required it, so it’s not surprising the College Board has abandoned it.”

The subject tests in the U.S. will no longer be available, and anyone who’s already signed up for one will receive a refund, according to the College Board. 

However, since the tests are used internationally, they will give the tests two final times in May and June for international students. 

For those who have already submitted their test scores for college applications, the respective colleges will decide whether to consider them.

The essay will be available through June 2021 and then discontinued except for states where the essay is required for SAT School Day administration for accountability purposes.

In an email to college counselors, the College Board said it will continue working on providing as many opportunities as possible for the high school class of 2022 to take the SAT.

—By Arikta Trivedi

Originally published in the Feb. 2 edition of the Octagon.

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