College Board to no longer administrate SAT Subject Tests, will phase out the SAT Essay

Fallon Dern and Konnie Duan

The College Board announced the discontinuation of the SAT Subject Tests and optional SAT essay Jan. 19. Although the SAT Subject Tests were canceled immediately in the U.S., the optional essay will be offered through June.

The College Board stated in its blog post that the changes resulted from the coronavirus pandemic and the pressure it placed on students.

“The pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students,” the announcement said.

The College Board also said the SAT Subject Tests are less relevant as more students take AP exams.

“The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know,” the post stated.

Some students, such as Stephen Purdum ’22, agreed with the College Board’s decision to stop administering Subject Tests.

“It’s definitely nice to have one less thing to worry about in the college application process,” Purdum said. “The last thing teenagers need in this period of unprecedented difficulty is additional stress. However, given that until this relatively late stage, subject tests had seemed like a given, for many, the cancellation of the tests may represent a lot of hard work and preparation that now seems to have been for nothing.”

Mixed reactions from students

Upper School Dean Nia Kilgore said that although many students are pleased to have less stress, some feel that an avenue to showcase their knowledge in a given subject has been closed.

“We’re sensitive to the fact that strong test-takers and those who simply excel in a particular area will no longer have this particular hook to show off an academic skill or talent,” Kilgore said. “At the same time, taking subject tests historically required planning, preparation and costs—which are factors that not all students have access to so easily.”

Not only have there been changes from the College Board, but the school has also made standardized testing changes as a result of the pandemic. The school canceled its administration of the Jan. 26 PSAT after the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health mandated that schools suspend all in-person activities during January.

Head of Upper School Beth Slattery sent this announcement in an email Jan. 11. She informed families that while the PSAT was cancelled, students can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship program with their SAT scores.

As for the SAT Subject Tests, Slattery said she believes their cancellation will have little effect on future applications.

“It’s probably not going to change the way things are for our school.”