College Board Scraps SAT Essay, Subject Tests to ‘Reduce Demands on Students’

January 20, 2021 Updated: January 20, 2021

The College Board announced on Tuesday that it will remove the optional essay-writing component of the SAT and will no longer offer the subject-specific exams known as SAT subject tests.

The changes to the key college admission tests were due to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, which “accelerated a process already underway … to reduce and simplify demands on students,” the College Board said in a statement.

“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of being innovative and adaptive to what lies ahead,” the Manhattan-based testing organization said in a statement. “We are committed to making the SAT a more flexible tool, and we are making substantial investments to do so.”

The essay used to be a mandatory part of the SAT’s writing section. Following a major overhaul in 2016, it became an optional separate section with an independent scoring system, meaning that the essay score is not counted toward the maximum possible SAT score of 1600.

The decision to eliminate the essay “recognizes that there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing,” the College Board said. Students registered for the SAT with the optional essay this spring will be able to cancel without an additional charge.

“Writing remains essential to college readiness and the SAT will continue to measure writing and editing skills, but there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing, and the SAT will continue to measure writing throughout the test,” the statement read.

Over the past decades, the College Board has been offering subject tests in five fields, namely English literature, history, foreign languages, mathematics, and science. Only a small percentage of colleges and universities today mandate the SAT subject tests, and the registration for the test has fallen in recent years.

The Advanced Placement (AP) tests, according to College Board, are better assessments of a student’s knowledge in specific subject areas, and they made SAT subject tests less useful to college admission officers. The AP tests cover a broader range of topics from music theory to microeconomics.

“The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability for low-income students and students of color means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know,” College Board said, adding that SAT subject tests will still be made available to foreign students applying to American colleges through June.

Most colleges have temporarily, if not permanently, dropped any admissions exam requirement last year when the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic shuttered schools and other common testing sites. The University of California, the nation’s largest public university system, announced in May that it suspended the SAT and ACT requirement for its applicants through 2024, with the hope of having a new admission format by then.