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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Silbernagel

Cancelled Indefinitely: SAT Essay and Subject Tests

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

The College Board has added to the list of things that were cancelled due to the pandemic. Although, in this case, students might be smiling.

The College Board has announced it will no longer offer SAT Subject Tests or the optional Essay. Important: This refers only to the SAT Subject Tests (sometimes called SAT 2) and the optional essay. The regular SAT test is still offered.

The College Board says that these plans had been in the works even before COVID, stating "the pandemic has accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

What does this mean for students?

Subject Tests

Students currently registered for an upcoming Subject Test will automatically have their registration cancelled and fees refunded.

The Optional Essay

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. Although I'm not sure why a student would want to because, even before the big College Board announcement, nearly all the colleges in the U.S. have indicated they do not require the essay.

Students can cancel the optional Essay portion of their SAT in their online account, with no change fees, until the registration deadline. Easy Peasy.

College Policies

Keep in mind, it may take the colleges some time to update their official policies and update their websites. Many colleges do not reevaluate testing requirements until after they complete the admission cycle in the spring, especially true this year as colleges reevaluate their test-optional policies as the pandemic continues and the availability of tests remains uncertain.

AP Tests

Some students may wonder if AP test scores will become a more important factor in college admissions now that the SAT subjects tests are thing of the past. The short answer for the class of 2022 is "No." Colleges rarely require AP Subject test scores for admission. Scores of 3 or above may provide college credit when a student enrolls. The value of taking AP courses comes from showing the colleges that the student is taking rigorous and challenging courses. Their grades in those courses reflect their mastery of the information. This article provides helpful information about the role AP Scores currently play in college admissions.

Time will tell if AP test scores become more important in the future. But it is important to note that due to the progressive nature of the way students are encouraged to take AP courses - beginning in tenth grade and peaking in 12th grade in terms of number and rigor - plus the fact that seniors will not be able to report their senior your AP scores in the application process, and that many schools do not even offer AP courses, their role will have to be limited.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no "magic number" when it comes to how many AP courses students should take. It is an individual decision. Students should aim to take the most challenging courses in which they can be successful.

What about the ACT Writing Test?

The ACT Writing Test is still available for students. Word on the street is that the ACT may not want to be seen as immediately following in the College Board’s footsteps. But the ACT faces the same reality — an essay test that few colleges even consider. Taking the ACT Writing Test currently provides no real benefit to students.

Can students who already registered for the ACT with Writing opt-out?

Yes! And here's how:

Canceling the Optional Essay

Log in to your ACT web account and select “Make changes to your registration” no later than the late registration deadline for your test date. Students who miss the late registration deadline date can tell the test coordinator at their test center that they want to change their Test Option before they are admitted to test.

More SAT Changes on the Horizon

The College Board will announce this spring its plans for a more flexible SAT—a streamlined, digitally delivered test. Stay tuned!


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