College Board to Drop the Optional SAT Essay & Subject Tests From Their Standardized Test Offerings

19/01/20214 minute read
College Board to Drop the Optional SAT Essay & Subject Tests From Their Standardized Test Offerings

College Board will begin phasing out the SAT's optional essay and subject tests globally, eliminating them entirely by the end of the summer.

College Board, the organising body which administers the SAT college entrance examinations, announced on Tuesday, January 19 that they will be discontinuing both the optional SAT Essay and the SAT Subject Tests from their standardised testing platforms.

The changes will become effective immediately in the US (with all students currently registered for SAT Subject Tests being issued a registration fee refund), while international students will be able to sit Subject Tests up until June 2021.

The move comes in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, with College Board commenting the pandemic accelerated a “process already underway” to simplify their work and reduce demands on students. Further, it has been suggested that AP or Advanced Placement exams will be considered as a valid replacement to SAT Subject Tests as indicators of a student’s subject focus abilities, with College Board CEO David Coleman noting “AP provides a much richer and more flexible way for students to distinguish themselves.”

“We’re reducing demands on students,” said College Board in the newly released statement. “The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know.

“We’ve continued to enrich and expand access to AP courses, which let students showcase their skills through challenging coursework.”

Acknowledging the College Board announcement, Crimson Education CEO Jamie Beaton noted that students will have to find new ways to showcase their specific subject talents. Beaton says options such as AP courses, A-Level qualifications and other subject specific competition reporting will all offer opportunities for students to communicate their skills to admissions officers.

"SAT Subject Tests have enabled students to showcase specific subject skills in areas like math, sciences and history. As such, the recent College Board changes will require students to find alternative ways to showcase their competencies in specific subjects. This is particularly relevant for international students from high schools offering curricula less familiar to admissions officers. 

“An appropriate choice for many students will be AP courses or the uptake of additional subjects in respected international curricula such as A-Levels. Students can also focus on recognised subject-based competitions that set them apart in that particular area of study. In many ways, opening up these alternatives could be a positive for international students, providing them with more options to display their skills across a number of different platforms.”

The move to drop the optional SAT Essay and Subjects Tests follows a year of uncertainty in the testing process which saw many US colleges go 'SAT optional'. The pandemic also highlighted the demand for online testing options - a subject College Board said it would provide more information on in April.

“There’s no doubt that online testing, and quality online schooling in general is becoming more and more important in our current education landscape, and that it’s value and relevance will continue post the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mr Beaton.

“Our online high school, Crimson Global Academy, uniquely offers both A Levels and AP classes for students all over the world — our dedication to eliminate the boundaries of geography and other obstacles caused by the pandemic being a key driver of our student offerings.

“The College Board announcement simply exemplifies how important it is for students to find new ways to communicate their hard work and accomplishment, something Crimson has been dedicated to for some time.”

Mr Beaton also notes that any change in standardised testing policy means other elements of the Common Application — most specifically the extracurriculars or ‘Activities’ section and students’ personal statements and supplemental essays — become even more important in the decision making process.

“With applications to top schools on the rise, and changes in testing practices occurring, the other components of their application become even more powerful determining factors in admissions officers’ decisions,” said Mr Beaton, a Harvard and Stanford graduate and Oxford Rhodes scholar.

“That’s why at Crimson we leave no stone unturned in the application process, with every student allocated a team of five or more experts dedicated to supporting them with every aspect of their application. 

“Today’s changes prove just how important it is for students to get the advice and support they deserve.”

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