Published Feb. 12, 2021
By KEA YENGST
Due to limitations surrounding COVID-19, the College Board announced Jan. 19 that it will discontinue the SAT Subject Tests immediately and discontinue the optional SAT essay portion in June.
“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,” states an announcement on the College Board website. “The pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students.”
As for international students, Subject Tests have not become completely obsolete yet, and they will have the option to take SAT Subject Tests until June.
Prior to their cancellation, prestigious universities across the country, such as Pomona College, universities within the Ivy League and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, required two SAT Subject Tests for programs or general admission. As for the essay portion, many universities recommended but not required freshman applicants to take it.
Patricia Hunt, the director for the Carmel High School College and Career Center, has not only noticed a recent surge in applications to test-optional universities, but believes that Advanced Placement courses and extracurricular opportunities contain higher value in college admissions than that of SAT Subject Tests and the essay.
“While some students who are fantastic test takers would bemoan not being able to take those tests, tests like these are not very indicative on how a student will perform in college,” Hunt says. “For our kids, they already take so many AP tests anyway, I think that that is what they [college admissions officers] will be looking for.”
The University of California system formerly required the SAT or ACT with the optional essay for all applicants, but has recently adapted to the circumstances of the pandemic and the College Board’s most recent decision through their own five-year plan that will evolve from test-optional policies to a new standardized test based directly on the UC curriculum.
“As a counselor, I’m okay with them going away because it was just one extra thing to focus on, one extra Saturday to give up, one more test to study for,” says Darren Johnston, one of three CHS counselors. “I think what is going to happen is that the colleges who used to care about the subject tests are now just going to focus more of their attention on AP Exam results.”
Ella Morgan, a junior at CHS, planned to take the SAT Math II Subject Test prior to its cancellation.
“I was thinking about taking the test because my math teacher recommended it to our class,” Morgan says. “Math is one of my strong suits and the test would demonstrate that well to colleges.”
Tyler Armstrong, a former CHS student who graduated one year early in 2020, took both the Math I and II Subject Tests alongside the SAT Literature Subject Test.
“Since my Subject Tests were pretty consistent with the rest of my application, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference if I was applying with or without them this year or the last,” Armstrong says. “I took both Math I and II just in case I screwed one of them up and took Literature because I felt pretty comfortable with anything English-related.”
Nina Robertson, another junior at CHS, had been registered for the SAT World History and Spanish Subject Tests, both of which are her strong subjects.
“World History and Spanish are both my strong subjects,” Robertson says. “I don’t think it will have much of an impact on my college applications because many other students like me did not have the opportunity to take these tests.”
Not only are the Subject Tests and optional essay portion vanishing from future administration, but many universities will have to adapt to new test-optional policies for future application cycles.