College Board Eliminates SAT Subject Tests & SAT Essay

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:

In a webinar today entitled “An Update on Simplifying Our Work,” College Board CEO David Coleman announced two important changes impacting graduating classes of 2022 and beyond:

  1. SAT Subject Tests are immediately canceled (in the USA). They’ll be offered in May/June internationally, but American registrations for all future subject test dates (May and June 2021) will be canceled and refunded (thereby opening more seats for SAT testers on those dates).
  2. The SAT Essay is also canceled after June 2021 for national test dates (though it may still be available through statewide and district testing for accountability in the SAT School Day program). Students wishing to cancel their existing registrations this spring for the essay portion can do so at no cost.

Subject Tests

There has always been a redundancy between AP exams and Subject Tests: Subject Tests essentially feature the multiple-choice portions of the AP exams. They tend to be administered around the same time of the year (spring, at the end of a full year’s course work), causing a glut of testing at a high-stress time for students as well as more administrative burden for schools as test centers.

For these reasons, then, the move away from the SAT Subject Tests has long been anticipated and will be welcome. College Board is also highlighting the end of subject tests as a move for equity with an expanded focus on increasing the availability of AP tests for low-income students and students of color.

If students have already taken Subject Tests, College Board will still continue to release those scores to colleges.

SAT Essay

As assessments of spontaneous writing, the SAT Essay and ACT essay have always been of questionable value. While both grading rubrics are intelligent, thoughtful, and useful in helping students cultivate college-ready persuasive essay writing skills, their grading (which happens under incredible time duress) and their placement (40 or 50 minutes at the end of a 3-hour exam) raise questions about the reliability of their results. By contrast, several years of essay writing grades in high school serve admissions officers as a far better index to a student’s writing ability. Again, this elimination will be welcome.

Simplifying

At a time when the scrutiny on standardized assessment reaches a crescendo, College Board is clearly attempting to trim fat—eliminating unnecessary assessments that either lack clear relevance for admissions considerations and add unnecessarily to administrative burdens.

What we’re watching?

  • We’ll monitor the role that AP exams play in college admissions and report any changes
  • We’ll follow ACT closely to see if ACT takes the same approach to the ACT essay
  • We’ll continue took look for how both SAT and ACT continue to focus on simplicity, which will likely include rapid investment in online administrations of SAT and ACT to offer safe, reliable access for more students

Be well,
Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

Matthew Pietrafetta

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