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Goodbye SAT Essay and SAT Subject Tests

February 19, 2021

Last month, the College Board announced effective immediately, Subject Tests will be discontinued and the optional essay will end on June 2021. , sort of.


The College Board says:

  1. Subject Tests can no longer be taken.
  2. The reach of Advanced Placement courses to low-income students has expanded.
  3. The SAT essay will not be offered after June 2021 unless the test is taken on SAT School Day. 
  4. The College Board is working to deliver a more flexible, streamlined SAT proctored in a digital environment. The release date for this revision has not been determined.

The removal of Subject Tests is great news for those who were undertaking subject tests as well as taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Their stress-load has undergone an instant reprieve. It’s also a welcome test-taking relief in times of the current pandemic.


The optional essay was never equally attempted. It was, however, a smart choice to attempt, in order to let your application, stand out from others.  Some colleges have ignored essays while others have held them in higher esteem,  using them to differentiate students. However, there are still colleges that will require it. Go figure!

Here are some notable stats: 

  • In 2017 – 70% of SAT test-takers attempted the essay
  • In 2019 – 2020 that figure plunged to 57%.

While this would be a reflection of Covid-19, the January 2021 announcement confirms subject tests are gone and essays can be attempted only until June 2021. with those tow exceptions.


Is this the end of standardized testing? 

I think not. There is big money involved in running the College Board. When it comes down to their decisions, you’ve got to be sure that finances have entered into the equation. 


SAT and ACT standardized testing is still the most prevalent system involved in college entry and the awarding of scholarship money. By and large, most colleges still accept standardized testing results now and will accept them after the pandemic is over. 


For some students, the elimination of Subject Tests and the essay might make things easier, but many will still feel this testing method to be advantageous for some and not others. The College Board asserts the changes will reduce and simplify demands and the system is more “student-centric” and “equity-driven.”


I believe standardized testing to be reasonably equitable. Overall, no groups are excluded based on socioeconomic criteria.  All are able to compete on a level playing field.  The one unfair advantage some may point out is that everyone cannot afford the expense to take extra tests needed to improve results. However, test fee waivers are available for those who qualify.  


College Prep Genius is committed to making test prep available for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.  Not only is our program one of the most affordable on the market, but we partner with many low-income school districts teaching our award-winning strategies.


College Prep Genius is committed to making test prep available for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.  Not only is our program one of the most affordable on the market, but we partner with many low-income school districts teaching our award-winning strategies.

Nothing is perfect.

With the College Board focusing on Advanced Placement courses, the new system is not equitable across the board. 

  • Only fraction of high schools will have access to AP curriculum (2,000 out of 24,000 high schools)
  • AP Tests cost $100 per exam, while Subject Tests were only $26 per exam.

Homeschooled students are amongst the many that may have limited access to AP courses.  But all is not lost to those who may not have access within a school.


Three ways to take AP tests when not available in the school.

  1. Purchase AP prep books and study on your own.
  2. Enroll in an online AP course.
  3. Take a class from an AP teacher.

    AP Scoring

  • AP tests are scored from 1 – 5. 
  • A score of 3 and above will generally get you college credit. 
  • A score of 4 – 5 is needed for top-tier or selective schools.

Prepping and taking standardized tests still proves beneficial. Students will improve test-taking skills they may encounter on standardized tests in the future for post-grad school or employment.  As a bonus, strategies learned for these tests can also help on the AP exams.  Plus, prepping for the SAT and ACT is still very necessary for students looking to gain college admittance and access scholarships. Leveling the playing field for all students with a standardized test proves to be a crucial part of the college journey. While that may look different in the future post pandemic, we’re not quite there yet.

Related Posts

Homeschooling and eLEARNING: Education in the Year of COVID-19 (Part One)


Episode 85: Test Prep Mistake 1 Test Books


Should Your Sophomore Take an SAT Prep Class?


Episode 83: College Checklist 9th – 10th Grade


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