Adapting to Pandemic-Era Realities, College Board Drops SAT Subject Tests

The College Board, in one fell swoop, lowered the pressure on high school students last week. It eliminated SAT Subject Tests and the SAT essay – effective immediately. There will be no more administrations of Subject Tests in the United States. The decision is one that I have been expecting for a number of years, and it looks like the cancellation of so many test dates for the SATs has propelled the decision right now. 

In actuality, Subject Tests have been on the wane in consideration by colleges and universities in recent years. Fewer and fewer schools have been requiring them, and even recommending them, which probably is the main mover in the decision. And more and more colleges have stopped requiring that students take the essay portion of the SAT. Even so, the essay section of the SAT was often given little or no consideration in admissions. 

What will colleges do? 

Colleges will need to update the admissions requirements on their websites, and that may take some time. Whether they will review Subject Tests that have already been taken remains to be seen. It’s best to check with the individual colleges and universities – but give them some time to reconsider their policies. This is a busy time in college admissions, as it is reading season, so addressing the College Board decision may not be of utmost importance right now. It’s just another “something” for colleges to consider this year, along with deciding whether to continue their test optional policies for the Class of 2026.

How will the change affect admissions? One university dean has already weighed in. According to University of Virginia Associate Dean of Admissions, Jeannine Lalonde, the author of the UVA blog, Notes from Peabody, most of the time reading applications is spent on parts of the application other than Subject Tests.

“Subject Tests didn’t give me the information I needed about a student’s preparation in each subject area,” writes Dean J. “That’s what the transcript did. I’m more interested in sustained classroom performance than a test score. After all, we are building a community of scholars here. We want people who will contribute to classroom discussions, not people who just show up on test day…The SAT won’t have any more prominence in the future than it did in the past. The transcript (3+ years of coursework and grades, not GPAs) remains the most important part of your application,” says Dean J. 

What about UK schools?

I know that some students may be applying to schools in the United Kingdom that have considered Subject Tests in the past. I reached out to one of my colleagues at the British Council who has advised me that the British universities are reconsidering their entry requirements, but it’s too soon for a consensus as to how they will adjust their entry requirements. Especially for students who have received conditional offers of acceptance for this fall, it is wise to get in touch with the representative at the particular university to find out how the university is planning to adjust its offer. 

Free college planning resources

Sign up for the latest posts from the College Blog and get a free download of the How to Apply to College Stress-Free eBook. Subscribe and get the eBook.