January 19, 2021
As of the morning of 1/19/2021, news broke that the SAT would no longer include an optional essay or offer SAT Subject Tests. Communication from the College Board can be found on their website.
What We Know
The College Board announced a three-pronged update:
- SAT Subject Tests will be discontinued permanently, effective immediately for US students and within the next year for international students.
- The optional SAT essay is being discontinued permanently, effective after June 2021 test dates.
- The College Board is investing in refining the SAT itself, working to create “a more flexible SAT—a streamlined, digitally delivered test that meets the evolving needs of students and higher education.”
What This Means for Students
The College Board’s shift away from SAT Subject Test is, in part, a continued trend toward AP Exams. Per David Coleman, College Board CEO, interviewed in the Washington Post, “AP provides a much richer and more flexible way for students to distinguish themselves.”
AP Exams are a culmination of a year’s course in a particular subject and assess students’ measures of knowledge with both multiple choice and free-response questions. With the end of Subject Tests, we expect that selective colleges may become more interested in students’ AP course load and exam scores. We look forward to seeing how some of the SAT Subject Test holdouts, like Georgetown, adjust their policies and language in the coming weeks.
The move away from the optional SAT essay is a less significant change, as many colleges have put less emphasis on the essay in recent years. There is no harm in a student who planned to take the test with the optional essay doing so before June 2021, but students who are just starting to prepare for the SAT do not need to plan for the essay.
As part of their statement, the College Board is also doubling down on the SAT still being “a way [for students] to show their strength to colleges,” despite all the turmoil of the pandemic. They specifically note that their plans to scrap Subject Tests will have immediate benefits for students taking the SAT, as seats that would have been allocated to Subject Test students will now be able to be used for SAT registrations.
We will continue to monitor news from the College Board, especially regarding a forthcoming digital SAT option. According to the College Board’s announcement, more information will be available “later this spring.” We will also keep a close eye on any news from the ACT that they plan to take an equivalent step in eliminating their essay component, which is also currently optional.
What to do Next
If you are a student prepping for the SAT, stay the course. Talk to your college counselor about whether or not you should still take the optional essay if you are registered to take the test before June 2021, and plan to take the test on paper as usual—a potential digital option will likely not be available for awhile.
If you were planning to take an SAT Subject Test in the coming months and are also signed up for AP exams, you may want to shift focus to those APs. You will be refunded for the SAT Subject Test. Look out for more information from Private Prep about AP classes and AP diagnostics. Our tutors are ready to work with students in a variety of subjects. Contact us for more information.