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College Board scraps SAT optional essay and subject tests


The College Board said Tuesday that it is nixing the SAT’s subject tests and optional essay due to COVID-19 concerns and an overall need to “streamline” the test.

“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of being innovative and adaptive to what lies ahead,” the 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 board said it wanted to “simplify our work and reduce demands on students” in making the move.


The essay and specific subject tests were optional aspects of the standardized exam that allowed students to demonstrate particular areas of expertise.

The College Board noted that subject tests would still be made available to international students applying to American colleges through June but will end after that.

Expanded AP offerings, the body said, have made additional subject assessments less useful to admissions officers.

“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,” the group said.

The testing agency also announced Tuesday that it will begin a comprehensive overhaul of the SAT, long a critical component of collegiate admissions.

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Repeated administrations of the exam were cancelled last year amid the pandemic, and the College Board said it was now working on a digital version of the three-hour exam.

The test has come under fire in recent years as critics question the overall influence of high stakes testing for admissions and assessment purposes.

Supporters argue that they provide an objective measure of student knowledge and preparation.

Critics contend the tests benefit kids with the means to prepare for them — which often includes private test prep courses.

Most colleges have suspended any exam requirements in the wake of COVID-19 upheaval — but many assume that permanent changes are imminent.

The University of California opted last May to phase out both the SAT and ACT exams permanently.

According to the College Board, about 2.2 million 2020 high school graduates sat for the exam before the coronavirus closed down school buildings and forced exam cancellations.

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