SAT Has Cancelled the Optional Essay and the Subject Tests

The College Board, the folks behind SAT exams and AP classes, did a little rocking of the testing world recently when they announced the immediate cancellation of the optional essay and the subject tests. They followed up that news with the announcement that they will be laying off 14% of their workforce.

SAT Optional Essay

The optional essay has slowly fallen out of use by universities. Admissions folks believe they can size up the writing ability of an applicant by relying on the course rigor, grades, and application essay(s) submitted without the results from one essay written on one Saturday. Students were often confused about whether or not to buy access to the essay section. Really, this is good news from the SAT. (We’ll have to see how ACT responds. They’ve been put in kind of an awkward position in the “testing wars.”)

SAT Subject Tests

The subject tests have also seen their relevance shrink over time (although relied on more heavily by students outside the US). SAT states that they are reducing the demands on students (insert our skeptical face), and focusing on AP. Besides the SAT test itself, AP is their most successful product, and this change allows them to “enrich and expand access to AP courses,” which of course translates into replacing lost essay revenue with more AP revenue.

Lots of unknowns at this point. Will colleges want to see more AP courses than they have in the past? We can’t be sure. Not all high schools offer AP. Colleges still want students to challenge themselves appropriately.

Will families think they have to take more AP courses? (Unfortunately, they might. Families feel pressure to “give their kids an advantage” and find the perfect formula for admissions, and it’s easy to lose sight of the best interests of their child. #oursoapbox #wecanhelp)

We’ll need to wait and see.

Will colleges still accept essays and subject tests that have already been taken? Possibly. We need to wait on the colleges themselves to decide and announce in the coming weeks and months.

You can read more about the thinking and effect of these changes here.

All this exam stuff can make you a bit crazy (and nervous!). Tune in to one of our ACT/SAT testing webinars. No matter whether you haven’t started testing yet OR you have some testing experience and realize there’s still a lot to learn, this 90-minute low cost webinar for you and your child (grades 7-11) is so valuable.

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