College Board discontinues Subject Tests, optional SAT essay


(Samantha Nichols)

By GG Mormorunni

The College Board, a nonprofit organization that administers the SAT exam, issued a press release on Jan. 19 announcing the discontinuation of Subject Tests and the optional SAT essay. Subject Tests are being eliminated immediately and students who have already signed up will receive refunds. The essay portion of the SAT will still be available until after June.

Though the College Board had already begun discussion of removing the Subject Tests and the essay due to waning influence in the application process, the pandemic forced the board to make this decision sooner than expected. Subject Tests, which are similar to the cumulative assessments taken by AP students in May, were designed to showcase a student’s knowledge in a particular subject. 

This new change may have a large impact on students beginning the college application process, especially for students who don’t have access to Advanced Placement (AP) classes, which are college-level courses offered by the College Board to high school students. “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. AP provides students rich and varied opportunities to showcase their knowledge and skills through college-level coursework,” the press release said. In response to the removal of the subject tests, Tam’s former College and Career Specialist Melanie Voorsanger said, “I think it’s still pretty nuanced though because with the Subject Tests a student can really sit down and show what they know in a specific subject and for student who are going into specialized fields like STEM, I think that might make it a little ambiguous … but I think there is a difference between judging a student off of one test versus the classes they’ve taken, the interest they’ve shown, and their teacher recommendations.” 

The removal of the essay portion at the end of the SAT may also have an impact on a students’ ability to demonstrate their skills in English and essay writing. “Most college admissions forms you are already writing an essay. They get to directly read that instead of a score and I think that’s a better demonstration of yourself as a person and your ability as a student,” junior Madison Mclean said. 

The University of California system and a steadily rising number of colleges and universities have already eliminated ACT and SAT test scores from the admissions process and others are planning to phase it out over time. “Schools are actually looking at you as a whole person and that this is an indication that they have been ready to do this. It just took some pushing … Look at this as a positive and as a chance to personalize this process a little bit more than we are inclined to do,” Voorsanger said.