Testing for colleges undergoes significant change

The College Board decides the fate of SAT subject tests and essay


Nathan Reish

Sophomore Chris Hu prepares for the SAT exam in a practice booklet.

Nathan Reish, Staff Writer

Say goodbye to the SAT subject tests and essay.

The College Board’s recent decision to eliminate the SAT essay and subject tests will impact all high school students looking at post-secondary education.   

For those who may not know, the College Board is the organization responsible for providing the SAT exam, as well as the Advanced Placement (AP) exams to high school students. These drastic changes will impact students across the country, both positively and negatively.

The SAT essay was an optional writing portion of the major test that could boost one’s writing skills.  This option has been taken away along with subject tests that were focused on a wide variety of individual subjects from history to science.

While this new development is in part due to the pandemic canceling many SAT testing dates, there has been a trend in recent years in which colleges have not put as much emphasis on the subject tests or essay than there had been in the past.

“I feel that as colleges move away from the SATs, they are starting to realize that one’s education is not all about taking tests,” said junior Jackson Kozma. “The application process should be more about what you know and your intelligence.”

The elimination of the subject tests is a welcome sight for some students who are not great tests takers. Colleges may look more at high school GPAs and accomplishments rather than just one subject test. 

Still, there is the other side of the debate in which students wish they could show their strengths in particular areas and potentially stand out to the schools they hope to attend.

“I think I still would have taken it (subject tests) because it is easier for people to take those who specialize in those areas,” said junior Carly Perez.

Perez also noted that on some college applications, there is a mandatory essay requirement that will be looked at by the desired college. This can provide an opportunity to display talented writing skills in place of the SAT essay, again providing a reason why this portion of the test is unnecessary and outdated.

While there are pros and cons to this debate, the pandemic is not going away any time soon. In a time when students are struggling to even find a testing center to complete the normal math and English portions of the exam, also incorporating subject tests and the essay would have been over ambitious.

“I think this is the right move because it is a difficult time,” said Kozma. “Not everyone is learning at the same pace as everyone else. The College Board getting rid of the subject tests and essay relieves some of that stress off of the students.”

One thing that is not going away during the pandemic are the AP exams. Students can still take these tests and transfer in credits to some colleges. School counselor Ms. Theresa Onody recommends that students check if their desired college will take AP scores before a student pays for the exam.

As far as being admitted into one’s school of choice, there are still ways for students to stand out on their transcript.

If juniors are interested in a specific college, I suggest reaching out directly to that school and see what they can do to make themselves stand out from their peers when applying,” said Onody. “For underclassmen, I would continue encouraging involvement in different things both inside and outside of school so they can either discuss the variety of clubs, activities, and after school jobs they’ve been involved with while in high school, or they can highlight a certain area that they are most proud of.

The elimination of the SAT subject tests and the essay will affect some students who are interested in different subjects besides math and English. This change will not, however, drastically affect the way students will apply to college. 

There are still many opportunities for students to display their strengths, both in and out of the classroom, even with the elimination of the SAT subject tests and essay. This is a permanent change in the college application process, and one that shows a shift in how high school students attend their desired college.

For more information about the permanent elimination of the SAT subject tests and essay, visit: https://www.browndailyherald.com/2021/01/31/college-board-eliminates-sat- subject-tests-optional-essay/

To look for what colleges accept AP credits from high school, visit: https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/getting-credit-placement/search-policies