College Board Scraps SAT Subject Tests and Optional Essay


Image: Wikimedia

Junhyoung (Edward) Kim, Staff Writer

If you ask high school students in the United States why they study so hard, most would answer your question with this response: “Because I want to go to a good college.” You see, there is a reason behind the millions of high school students playing an instrument, participating in science research, and taking part in summer internships. It’s because they believe that activities like these will help them in the college admissions process. In addition to the rigorous courses and various extracurriculars that students are engaged by throughout their four years of high school, another significant element is standardized tests. Yet, some of these standardized tests have become impossible to take with a recent decision by College Board.

The College Board—a not-for-profit organization that administers various standardized tests including the SAT, AP tests, and SAT subject tests—has long monopolized the industry. However, on January 19th, the College Board dropped its SAT subject tests (otherwise known as SAT II), as well as the optional essay within the SAT. The College Board also announced that all of its main SATs will be fully administered online in the near future. The College Board stated that it implemented this change because the pandemic created enormous difficulty for the students, and it wanted to reduce and simplify demands for them.  Starting from 2021, College Board wants many students to take the AP tests, and it appears that many US colleges will be paying more attention to them. 

Interestingly, there is also an economic reason for removing the SAT subject tests. According to a study by Applerouth, there has been a 120.1% increase in the number of AP test-takers since 2005, and there has been a 33.9% decrease in the number of students taking the SAT subject tests. This is important because students pay $94 to register for the AP tests, while they only pay $26 to register and a $22 fee per SAT subject test. For College Board, the decline of test-takers and the small profit it makes are sufficient reasons to scrap the SAT subject tests. 

Juniors at Tenafly High School, those who are waiting for the 2021-2022 college admissions cycle, appear to have mixed reactions about this decision. Chaeyoung Lee (’22) states that she doesn’t “get their logic that this will lift the burden on students. It would obviously stress out students who were studying for it and would only make the AP tests ever more important.” She also questions the system and states that it wasn’t “the right time and the right way to do it.” On the other hand, some juniors are relieved by this news. Jonghun Jeong (’22) said that he is relieved “because it’s one less thing to worry about for college applications.” He went on to say that this major change is beneficial due to the fact that “it’s the safer option for students and also it allows low-income students to compete with others.” 

While opinions differ on the implications of the College Board’s decision to scrap the SAT essay and subject tests, one thing is certain:  this major change will impact this highly confusing and competitive college admissions process in the coming years.