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College Board Discontinues SAT Essays and Subject Tests

The SAT Essays and Subject Tests have long been expensive to maintain in the past. Now, it's being scratched for good.
College Board Discontinues SAT Essays and Subject Tests

"The pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students", said the College Board in a press statement.

The New York Times reported that the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) raked in more than $1 billion in annual revenue for the College Board, and that scrapping the optional essay section and the subject tests are likely a decision lead by financial reasons.

Due to the temporary closure of test centers and reduced capacity across multiple countries during the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of registered students were either put on a later date to take the SATs, or canceled altogether, according to a report by Inside Higher Ed. The College Board has and is still developing a digital version of the SAT, though it had failed to deliver a working version in 2020.

The optional essay section has already been on the decline with many major institutions like Harvard dropping the requirement of essay scores in 2019, followed by Stanford, Princeton, Yale, and Dartmouth. Most state colleges in the United States did not require essay scores either. Administering the essay and getting professionals to read and evaluate them are becoming an inefficient use of resources for the College Board.

The Rise of AP

However, the Board expressed in its announcement that the "expanded reach of [Advanced Placement courses] and its widespread availability for low-income students and students of color" rendered subject tests unnecessary and redundant, since A.P. students are required to take A.P. tests by the end of their junior year, which are also administered by the College Board.

For international students outside of the United States, SAT Subject Tests will be discontinued after June 2021.

"Students who are currently registered for, or plan to register for, an upcoming Subject Test outside the U.S. can still test through the June 2021 administration. Students who no longer want to take Subject Tests can contact Customer Service to cancel and receive a refund," said the Board in an announcement on its website.

"Students who are currently registered, or plan to register, for an upcoming SAT with Essay will still be able to test through the June 2021 administration. Students who prefer to cancel the optional Essay portion of their SAT can do so in their online account, with no change fees, until the registration deadline.

After June 2021, the Essay will only be available in states where it’s required as part of SAT School Day administrations. Students scheduled to take the SAT on a school day should check with their school about whether the Essay will be included."

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Photo by Erin Doering

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