Why the College Board Made the Right Choice Getting Rid of SAT Essays and Subject Tests

Word Count: 817 Read Time: 4 mins

On January 19th, 2021, the College Board released a statement saying that SAT essays and Subject Tests will be discontinued. The SAT, a standardized test used for college admission, will still be available, but the optional SAT essay, however, will cease to exist. The SAT Subject Tests are not directly affiliated with the SAT. These subject tests are similar to the SAT in that both are multiple-choice tests considered by college applications, although by varying degrees. However, the difference is that the SAT measures students’ readiness for college, whereas SAT Subject Tests are optional tests that only test over specific subjects, such as Chemistry, Physics, and Spanish.

Although many students will lament the College Board’s decision against these tests, they made the right choice.

Getty Images

Here are 2 reasons why the College Board made the right choice

  1. Colleges Rarely Consider the SAT Essay and Subject Tests
  2. There Are Better Ways to Measure a Student’s Aptitude

Reason 1: Colleges Rarely Consider the SAT essay and Subject Tests

Even before the discontinuation of the optional essay and subject tests, they were widely unused because most colleges dropped their requirements for these tests. In fact, only seven colleges required Subject Test scores, and even so, it only applied to certain programs. For example, Boston University, a prestigious university that is ranked 42nd nationally, only required subject tests for their BS/MD or BS/DD program, so for the average or even above-average student, this sudden change should not matter. As for the SAT’s optional essay, in a survey of 150 colleges, only 3 stated that they do require the essay in college admission. With declining demand for SAT essays and subject tests, the College Board has chosen to give more resources to Advanced Placement (AP), its more popular program.

A table containing all of the colleges that required the SAT Subject before the College Board announced their removal
Spark Admissions

Reason 2: There Are Better Ways to Measure a Student’s Aptitude

For one, the SAT already tests grammar and writing skills in its Reading and Writing and Language sections, so there is little need for an additional SAT essay. To replace the SAT Subject Tests are Advanced Placement (AP) tests. Both test specific subjects, but as SAT Subject Tests declined in popularity, AP tests have done the opposite. Over the past 20 years, the number of AP tests given increased from about 1.2 million tests in 2000 to 4.7 million tests in 2020, but the number of SAT subject tests given decreased from about 700,000 tests in 2000 to 400,000 tests in 2020. Therefore, it is obvious why the College Board decided to discontinue the subject test: it’s way more efficient to invest resources in APs instead of SAT Subject Tests. Furthermore, AP scores allow the test-taker to earn college credits while in high school, which saves students thousands of dollars because taking AP tests are much cheaper than taking that class in college. Also, most high schools reward students with a Grade Point Average (GPA) boost when they take AP classes in school. Do SAT subject tests give students college credit or GPA boosts? Nope.

AP tests also give students a wider variety of tests: there are 38 unique AP tests but 20 SAT subject tests. AP tests also require more skill and deeper understanding to get satisfactory scores, with both multiple-choice ad long-answer questions. Colleges prefer high AP test scores over high SAT subject tests, too. Overall, there are new and better replacements for these tests, so why keep them at all?

All the APs that the College Board offers
One Sky Education

So What is to Come?

For most high schoolers who were expecting to utilize the SAT essay or subject tests in their college application, this news might be out of the blue and stressful; however, this adjustment will have only a minimal impact on their application. As previously explained, Subject Test scores and SAT essays were never considered an important aspect of college applications, and with their popularity declining steadily over the years, colleges will most likely not care. 

For students who have already taken subject tests, the College Board stated that they are reaching out to a multitude of colleges to discuss the impact of Subject Test cancellation. Although there are many unanswered questions, one thing is for certain: colleges will never penalize a student for taking an SAT essay or subject test, so for most students, this should be a minor nuisance. A couple of years down the line, though, this smart decision will prove to be beneficial for the College Board. With the money saved from discontinuing the SAT essay and subject tests, it wants to invest resources in an online version of the SAT that students can take from home. “We are committed to a future with a digital test,” reported the College Board on its website. With the advent of Covid-19, an online SAT would be revolutionary, and thanks to the intuitive decision of discontinuing the underutilized SAT essay and subject tests, the College Board will may just have enough resources to release a digital SAT in the near future.


  1. 1. The SAT essay and subject tests were optional for almost every college in the United States, and because of that, most students refused to take them. With this decrease in demand, the College Board has no other choice than to discontinue the underused SAT essay and subject test.
  2. The College Board decided that Advanced Placement (AP) tests are more efficient than SAT Subject Tests because unlike SAT Subject Tests, AP tests give students an opportunity to receive college credit, which save students money and time in college. Also, AP tests often correspond with high school AP classes, which reward students with a Grade Point Average (GPA) boost.
  3. As for what is to come, with the resources saved from discontinuing the SAT essay and subject tests, the College Board plans to release an online SAT.










Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: