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By: Jason Robinovitz | Last Updated: January 20, 2021

Test Prep PlansAmid the sea of challenges that rocked the world of college admissions this past year, College Board is riding the wave of changing times. The organization announced on Tuesday, January 19, that it will no longer administer SAT Subject Tests and will drop the optional essay portion of the SAT.

Why now? For one, the pandemic highlighted what was already on the decline. In recent years, colleges have been moving away from requiring the added Subject Tests, which measure students’ proficiency in subjects like U.S. History, Physics, Math, and Literature. The College Board, which also administers AP exams, feels that the AP program can fill the void of the Subject Tests.

According to the College Board in their recent announcement, “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.” In a subsequent webinar, the College Board went further, to state: "AP provides better opportunity to showcase knowledge

The optional essay on the SAT, which fewer and fewer colleges have been requiring, is also going away because the College Board says, “there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing.” 

We expect to learn more about these changes over the next months and as always, we are here to answer your questions and help you plan for the year ahead. For now, here are some answers to questions you might have.

Do I have to take a SAT subject test? What if I already signed up for an SAT Subject Test?

Any students in the U.S. registered for an upcoming Subject Test will have their registration cancelled and will receive a refund. There will be two additional Subject Tests for international students in May and June, before those are discontinued as well. Students can still send their previously taken scores in the same way (through official score reports) and member colleges will decide whether and how to consider students’ Subject Test scores.

When will the optional essay be discontinued?

The SAT with optional essays will be given through June 2021. Any student who has registered for the essay before then can cancel that portion of the test free of charge, if desired. The essay will still be included on the school-day SAT in states that require it for their own assessment purposes. 

What does this mean for me? How do I make myself stand out without the Subject Test and essay?

While we don’t know yet how the changes will play out in the long run, this will likely shift how colleges are assessing you. Undoubtedly, AP courses and exams are going to become more prevalent barometers for a student’s ability to handle rigorous college work. In addition, those college essays on the Common App will continue to increase in importance. Finally, having extracurricular activities that showcase commitment, initiative, leadership, and impact will likely become a more heavily weighed factor in admissions as well.

Overall, what it means for students, parents, and counselors is that long-term planning and college preparation is more important than ever. Our team of experts at Score At The Top and JRA Educational Consulting is always on top of the latest changes to college admissions and we are here to help guide you, keep you on course, and ensure your success.  Contact us here.

Topics: College Admission Subject Test SAT

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