College Board’s SAT Subject Test and Essay Cancellation: What Does It Mean For You?
On January 19, 2021, the College Board announced the discontinuation of SAT subject tests and optional essays.
As a trusted provider of online SAT support for International School students across the world, we have decided to share our thoughts on the effect this will have on students applying for college admission this year — and hopefully provide some reassurance!
The cancellation might have come as a shock (or, possibly, felt more like Christmas had come early) for many students, as it is not uncommon for universities, especially the more prestigious ones, to require or highly recommend that students sit 1-2 subject tests alongside the SAT or ACT.
However, it’s evident that both the SAT subject tests and essay were being asked for less frequently by universities, and have subsequently declined in popularity among students in recent years. We believe that this is partly due to the fact that there are many other ways for a student to showcase their academic talent or expertise, and the SAT subject tests and essay may not be the most accurate way of doing so. So, it's nothing to be concerned about, it's simply the natural evolution of assessment criteria and methods, and Millie believes this long-anticipated change and will open up new opportunities for students to present themselves in the best light.
What are the facts about the SAT cancellation?
As of January 16th, subject tests are no longer being administered in the US. Outside the US, where the subject tests are used for a wider range of purposes, two more cycles of subject tests will take place in May 2021 and June 2021. As for phasing out the essay, the College Board has decided that after June 2021, the essay “Will only be available in the states where it’s required as part of School Day administrations”.
How does this affect my preparation for university admissions?
It is anticipated that the College Board’s AP program will step up and replace the subject tests, fulfilling their original purpose. For international, non-AP students, you should take this as an opportunity to shift the focus to your in-school subjects, any academic research you might have undertaken, and personal projects or other academic pursuits that effectively illustrate your subject know-how. Showcase your passion for your subjects and use this opportunity to make yourself stand out.
“Take this as an opportunity to shift the focus to your in-school subject combination, academic research, and personal projects”.
However, academic results will still undoubtedly be important. With the SAT 1 and ACT being the only standardized tests available to local and international students, it is to be expected that a student’s SAT 1 or ACT score could begin to play a more important role in the overall admissions process. So, devote more time to your preparation for these — and definitely check out our SAT online courses! See our blog here for more advice, or sign up for our free diagnostic tests.
How are universities reacting to SAT cancellation?
Naturally, how universities will update their policies in regards to this new change is very important, however, it remains unclear, especially in the near future. We recommend visiting the university websites to see the most accurate and up-to-date information for all the institutions that have been affected. We’ve highlighted three universities below that we believe will be affected by this policy change.
Prior to Covid-19, Georgetown strongly recommended submitting at least three subject tests alongside their standard SAT or ACT testing and, as a result, is often known as one of the universities with the most rigorous SAT subject test requirements among the top-tier US universities. Since the coronavirus outbreak, Georgetown states that they “Understand the inability of students to take these additional tests,” and recognizes that applicants’ may have shifted focus to their primary SAT or ACT test scores. That being said, the university still urges students that have already taken, or are able to take, the subject test to submit their scores to the university. We anticipate that their policies will be similar in regards to subject tests, now that they are being discontinued; students that have already taken them are urged to submit their results, but not having any will not penalize their chances of admission.
Before the College Board’s decision, UC Berkeley and UC San Diego stated that submitting subject tests for certain colleges within the universities was strongly recommended. For UC Berkeley's Colleges of Chemistry and Engineering, they recommend both the Math Level 2 and a science test, whether that be the Biology E/M, Chemistry, or Physics. For UC San Diego the policies in regards to the subject tests were identical. However, this year the University recommends that if students have already taken the exams and have received scores they believe will strengthen their application, they are welcome to submit them, but it is not necessary to do so. As with Georgetown University, applicants will not be penalized for their lack of subject test scores.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, it was necessary for applicants to submit their SAT or ACT scores in addition to two subject tests, with the writing score being optional. Recently, Johns Hopkins announced that the test is now optional for the class of 2025, which means that even the standard SAT and ACT are not necessary for this year's applicants. Therefore, the College Board’s decision to discontinue the subject tests and essay component will not have that much of an impact on the application process this year.
“In the post-COVID era, the US college admission process will continue to evolve and adjust.”
It is clear that in the post-COVID era, the US college admission process will continue to evolve and adjust to the changing environment. However, we believe that as long as students stay focused on presenting themselves to universities using the wide range of mediums available, they will succeed in taking the next steps toward their dream future.
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