The College Board is discontinuing SAT Subject tests and the optional essay, while the SAT I will still be administered. See how this impacts you and changes the college application landscape.
What Is the Difference Between the SAT I and SAT II Exams?
The SAT I is commonly referred to as the SAT, the college readiness exam required for admission to most universities. The less familiar SAT II is another pre-college exam available to students that consists of subject tests.
Despite the similar name, the SAT I and SAT II are quite different exams. The SAT I tests general academic preparedness, while the subject tests offer an opportunity for students to demonstrate excellence within a given topic. These subject tests are what is going away, along with the optional essay.
When Are the SAT Test Changes Taking Effect?
Officially, College Board is dropping the SAT Subject tests to reduce “demands on students. The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know.” For students who are already registered for SAT Subject tests, their tests will automatically be cancelled and all fees will be refunded. International students will be offered two SAT Subject testing dates in May and June of 2021.
The last administration of the SAT Essay will be on June 2021, unless it is required in states as part of the SAT School Day administration. According to the College Board, “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 tasks on the SAT Reading and Writing and Language sections are among the most effective and predictive parts of the SAT.”
Why Did SAT Discontinuation Changes Happen?
This decision reflects several gradual changes that have been occurring in the college application landscape. The pandemic accelerated many of these changes, since SAT Subject testing dates were cancelled or unavailable during much of the pandemic.
The increasing availability of AP tests also means that students have more options for showing an advanced knowledge of their chosen subject. For example, a student interested in showing their mastery of physics has 4 AP Physics tests to choose from: AP Physics 1: Algebra-based, AP Physics 2: Algebra-based, AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism, and AP Physics C: Mechanics.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities became test-optional, meaning they retooled their acceptance processes to evaluate an applicant without consideration of test-scores.
What Does Elimination of the SAT Subject Tests and Optional Essay Mean for BS/MD Candidates?
Previously, several BS/MD programs required or highly-recommended SAT Subject tests, such as Math 2 or Chemistry. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all BS/MD programs went test-optional for SAT Subject tests. Further, many of the BS/MD programs specifically stated that they would not factor in any SAT Subject test scores submitted when considering a student’s application.
This means that instead of evaluating a candidate’s mastery of science subjects through SAT Subject tests, admissions committees are paying more attention to AP tests scores, the longitudinal high school experience, and extracurricular activities in the STEM based field.
- Did the student take a diverse offering of science courses in high school?
- Were they able to balance a heavy course-load while still maintaining their grades and extracurriculars?
- Did they max out on the highest level of science courses offered? Or did they tend to take the easiest, lowest level courses?
- Do any of the extracurriculars show a passion for STEM based fields?
Overall, the discontinuation of the SAT Subject tests is a positive change, which means that admissions officers will readjust their focus to examine the longitudinal high school experience instead of a single test score.
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