College Board eliminates both the SAT Subject Tests and optional essay

STAFF WRITER Sameeksha Panda

The College Board announced on Jan. 19 that the SAT Subject Tests and optional SAT Essay will henceforth no longer be offered in an effort to aid students in the midst of a pandemic-era admissions process. 

This move comes as millions of students have struggled to continue their traditional education in the face of COVID-19. The pandemic has both limited communication between students and their brick and mortar educational facilities and has depleted countless jobs for millions of Americans, further exacerbating the difficulties of students’ abilities to seize educational opportunities.

The College Board, in regards to its announcement, stated that its main reasoning for this decision was the increased amount of pressure it placed on students, even in pre-pandemic years. 

“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 pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students,” the College Board said in an announcement.

The College Board also cites a steadily diminishing use of the SAT Subject Tests and Essay by students and by college admission boards. From 2011 to 2020, the College Board has seen a 22.6 percent drop in the number of students who took at least one SAT Subject Test. And an augmented number of colleges rely on other standardized test scores, such as the standard SAT and ACT, for applications, including renowned institutions like Harvard and Princeton. 

ACT participation has increased more than 26 percent over the last five years across the United States. Jay R. Rosner, executive director of the Princeton Review Foundation, writes that “the deaths of both the essay and subject tests are several years overdue.” 

Now, College Board is promoting the use of another one of its programs, the AP Exams, as a more effective way to analyze a student’s academic performance. They emphasize that “the expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know.” 

According to Brian Taylor, managing director of private college consulting service Ivy Coach, this move is also more profitable for the College Board, as each AP Exam costs test-takers around $95, whereas SAT Subject Tests cost test-takers only about $26. 

The College Board’s decision has had mixed responses in students and educators alike across the nation, as well as right here in MHS itself.

Grace Montoya, a junior at MHS, said, “I think that it was a good decision, and I’m surprised they waited this long to do it. I feel like AP classes are a better representation of students’ understanding of a subject, and essays students write on their own time better show their writing skills.”

MHS sophomore Aayati Patel agrees with the removal of the SAT essay.

“With the time limit, writing a good essay is difficult for many students, and provides increased stress for students.” Patel said, however, that she only half agrees with the College Board’s move.

“I don’t agree with the College Board’s decision to remove the SAT Subject Tests because students have strengths besides just reading and math. The SAT Subject Test allows students to show colleges their other strengths besides just these two general categories.”

Senior Conner Huey also indicated that he’s unhappy with the board’s decision to remove SAT Subject Tests because “it definitely makes college admissions less driven by test scores and more holistic. It will lead to increased stress for students since they may feel the need to compensate for what would have been excellent Subject Test scores.”

“In a sense, I think by removing the pressure of more standardized tests for students, I believe another pressure has been amplified,” added Huey.