College Board Will No Longer Offer SAT Subject Tests or SAT with Essay

College Board

  • January 19, 2021
  • Last Updated September 15, 2021

As students and colleges adapt to new realities and changes to the college admissions process, College Board is making sure our programs adapt with them. We’re making some changes to reduce demands on students.

We are no longer offering SAT Subject Tests ™   

We’ve reached out to our member colleges and they’ll decide whether and how to consider students’ Subject Test scores. Students should check colleges’ websites for the most up-to-date information on their application policies. Students will still be able to get and send Subject Test scores from previous administrations, just as they do for the SAT. Learn how

We've also discontinued the optional SAT Essay

The Essay is only available in states where it’s required as part of SAT School Day administrations. Students scheduled to take the SAT on a school day should check with their school about whether the Essay will be included.

Writing remains essential to college readiness and the SAT will continue to measure writing and editing skills, but 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.

What is the current 2021-2022 SAT administration schedule?

You can find SAT test dates and deadlines here .

Why did you discontinue SAT Subject Tests?

We’re reducing 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.

I’ve already taken SAT Subject Tests. Will colleges still accept those scores?

We’ve reached out to our member colleges, and they’ll decide whether and how to consider students’ Subject Test scores. Students should check colleges’ websites for the most up-to-date information on their application policies. You'll still be able to get and send Subject Test scores from previous administrations, just as you can for the SAT.  Learn how

How long will score sending for SAT Subject Tests be an option?

Students can continue sending their Subject Test scores.

How can I show my skills in specific subject areas without the opportunity to take SAT Subject Tests?

We’ve continued to enrich and expand access to AP courses, which let students showcase their skills through challenging coursework. Many colleges already use AP course participation and exam score as indicators of a student’s ability and interest in a particular subject area. And colleges also have access to information about student performance in key subject areas through their SAT scores, high school transcript, course selection, and other measures. Check directly with the colleges you plan to apply to for alternative ways to strengthen your applications.

Why are you discontinuing the optional SAT Essay?

We’re adapting to respond to the changing needs of students and colleges. This change simply streamlines the process for students who have other, more relevant opportunities to show they can write an essay as part of the work they’re already doing on their path to college.

Will colleges still consider Essay scores if I submit them?

Check with the colleges you’re interested in about their policies. If you take the SAT with Essay, colleges may consider your scores as part of their holistic review process. Students registered for the SAT with Essay can cancel the Essay portion if they choose to.

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Even though an increasing number of colleges are dropping standardized test requirements, students who must write the SAT essay can still stand to gain from doing so. (Getty Images)

Although the essay portion of the SAT became optional in 2016, many students still chose to write it to demonstrate strong or improved writing skills to prospective colleges.

In June 2021, the College Board opted to discontinue the SAT essay. Now, only students in a few states and school districts still have access to — and must complete — the SAT essay. This requirement applies to some students in the SAT School Day program, for instance, among other groups.

Whether or not to write the SAT essay is not the biggest decision you will have to make in high school, but it is certainly one that requires thought on your part. Here are three things you should know about the 50-minute SAT essay as you decide whether to complete it:

To Excel on the SAT Essay, You Must Be a Trained Reader

The SAT essay prompt never comes unaccompanied. On the contrary, it follows a text that is about 700 words long or approximately one page. Before test-takers can even plan their response, they must carefully read and – ideally – annotate the passage.

The multifaceted nature of the SAT essay prompt can be distressing to students who struggle with reading comprehension. But the good news is that this prompt is highly predictable: It always asks students to explain how the author builds his or her argument. In this case, "how” means which rhetorical devices are used, such as deductive reasoning, metaphors, etc.

Luckily, the author’s argument is usually spelled out in the prompt itself. For instance, consider this past SAT prompt : “Write an essay in which you explain how Paul Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience that natural darkness should be preserved.”

Due to the essay prompt’s straightforward nature, students should read the passage with an eye toward specific devices used by the author rather than poring over “big ideas.” In tour SAT essay, aim to analyze at least two devices, with three being even better.

The SAT Essay Begs Background Knowledge of Rhetoric and Persuasive Writing

Since your SAT essay response must point to specific rhetorical devices that the author employs to convince the reader, you should make it a point to intimately know 10-15 common ones. The more familiar you are with rhetorical devices, the faster you will become at picking them out as you read texts.

Once you have read the passage and identified a handful of noteworthy rhetorical devices, you should apply many of the same essay-writing techniques you already use in your high school English classes.

For instance, you should start by brainstorming to see which devices you have the most to say about. After that, develop a concise thesis statement, incorporate quotes from the text, avoid wordiness and other infelicities of writing, close with an intriguing conclusion, and do everything else you could imagine your English teacher advising you to do.

Remember to always provide evidence from the text to support your claims. Finally, leave a few minutes at the end to review your essay for mistakes.

A Growing Number of Colleges Are Dropping Standardized Test Requirements

In recent years, some of America’s most prominent colleges and universities – including Ivy League institutions like Harvard University in Massachusetts, Princeton University in New Jersey and Yale University in Connecticut – have made submission of ACT and SAT scores optional.

While this trend began as early as 2018, the upheaval caused by COVID-19 has prompted many other schools to adopt a more lenient testing policy, as well.

Advocates for educational fairness have long expressed concerns that standardized admissions tests put underprivileged students at a disadvantage. In light of the coronavirus pandemic , which restricted exam access for almost all high school students, colleges have gotten on board with this idea by placing more emphasis on other factors in a student’s application.

To assess writing ability in alternative ways, colleges now place more emphasis on students’ grades in language-oriented subjects, as well as college application documents like the personal statement .

The fact that more colleges are lifting their ACT/SAT requirement does not imply that either test or any component of it is now obsolete. Students who must write the SAT essay can still stand to gain from doing so, especially those who wish to major in a writing-intensive field. The essay can also demonstrate a progression or upward trajectory in writing skills.

The SAT essay can give a boost to the college applications of the few students to whom it is still available. If the requirement applies to you, be sure to learn more about the SAT essay and practice it often as you prepare for your upcoming SAT.

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Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, should i take the sat essay how to decide.

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The SAT underwent some major revisions in 2016, and one of the biggest changes is that its previously required essay is now optional. This can be confusing for some students and parents. Should you take the essay? Will colleges require the essay or not? Will taking the essay make your application stronger?

Read on for answers to all these questions. This guide will explain what the SAT essay is, what the pros and cons of taking it are, and how you can make the best choice for you.

UPDATE: SAT Essay No Longer Offered

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In January 2021, the College Board announced that after June 2021, it would no longer offer the Essay portion of the SAT (except at schools who opt in during School Day Testing). It is now no longer possible to take the SAT Essay, unless your school is one of the small number who choose to offer it during SAT School Day Testing.

While most colleges had already made SAT Essay scores optional, this move by the College Board means no colleges now require the SAT Essay. It will also likely lead to additional college application changes such not looking at essay scores at all for the SAT or ACT, as well as potentially requiring additional writing samples for placement.

What does the end of the SAT Essay mean for your college applications? Check out our article on the College Board's SAT Essay decision for everything you need to know.

What Is the SAT Essay?

The SAT essay is one of the sections of the SAT. After being required since its inception, the College Board has now decided to make the essay optional. This is similar to the ACT, whose essay has always been optional.

During this section, students will be given 50 minutes to write an essay. The essay for the new SAT is very different than it was for the previous version of the SAT. You can read all about the changes to the SAT here , but, as a brief overview, the essay will give you a passage by an author who is taking a stance on an issue. Your job will be to analyze how the author built that argument.

If you choose to take the essay, it will be its own section of the SAT, and the score you get on the essay will be separate from your score on the rest of the exam. Your main SAT score will be out of 1600 while your essay will be graded across three different categories: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. For each area, your essay will be given a score from 2-8.

Below is a sample prompt from one of the official practice tests released by the College Board. Here you can read the entire prompt, including the passages you would need to analyze.


Do Colleges Require the SAT Essay Now That It's Optional?

So, the College Board has now made the essay an optional part of the SAT, but does that change how colleges view the essay (or if they even view it at all)? Kind of. Some schools that used the essays before no longer require them now that both the ACT and SAT have made the essays optional, but other schools continue to require the SAT essay.

Each school makes this decision individually, so there are no patterns to follow to try and guess who will require the essay and who won’t. Even top schools like the Ivy League are divided on whether to require the essay or not.  

This can make things confusing if you’re applying to college soon and don’t know if you should take the SAT essay or not. The following sections of this guide will explain the benefits and drawbacks of taking the essay and walk you through different scenarios so you can make an informed decision.

The #1 Consideration: Do Any of the Schools You're Interested in Require the Essay?

The absolute most important factor, the factor that matters more than anything else in the rest of this guide, is if any of the schools you’re applying to or thinking of applying to require the SAT essay.

The best way to get this information is to  Google “[school name] SAT essay requirement,” look directly on each school’s admission webpage, or   check out our list of the schools that require the SAT essay.

Find this information for every school you plan on applying to, even schools you’re not sure you want to apply to, but are considering. If even one school you’re interested in requires the SAT essay, then you should take it, regardless of any other factors.  There is no way to take just the SAT essay by itself, so if you take the SAT without the essay and then, later on, realize you need an essay score for a school you’re applying to, you will have to retake the entire test.

So, if a school you’re interested in requires the SAT essay, your choice is clear: take the essay when you take the SAT. However, what if the schools you’re interested in don’t require the essay? If that’s the case, you have some other factors to consider. Read on!

Benefits of Taking the SAT Essay

If none of the schools you’re thinking of applying to require the SAT essay, why would you want to take it? The two main reasons are explained below.

#1: You're Covered for All Schools

Taking the SAT essay means that, no matter which schools you end up applying to, you will absolutely have all their SAT requirements met. If you decide to apply to a new school that requires the SAT essay, that won’t be a problem because you’ll already have taken it.

If you already are absolutely certain about which schools you’re applying to and none of them require the essay, then this may not be a big deal to you. However, if you have a tentative list of schools, and you’ve been adding a school or removing a school from that list occasionally, you may want to be better safe than sorry and take the SAT essay, just in case.


Taking the SAT essay means you have all your bases covered, no matter which schools you end up applying to.

#2: A Good Score May Boost Your Application Slightly

While it’s highly unlikely that your SAT essay will be the deciding factor of your college application, there are some cases where it can give you a small leg up on the competition. This is the case if a school recommends, but doesn’t require the essay, and that school is particularly competitive.

Having a strong SAT essay score to submit may strengthen your application a bit, especially if you are trying to show strong English/writing skills.

Ready to go beyond just reading about the SAT? Then you'll love the free five-day trial for our SAT Complete Prep program . Designed and written by PrepScholar SAT experts , our SAT program customizes to your skill level in over 40 subskills so that you can focus your studying on what will get you the biggest score gains.

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Drawbacks to Taking the SAT Essay

There are also costs to taking the SAT essay; here are three of the most common:

#1: It's Another Section to Study For

If you choose to take the essay, that means you have an entire extra SAT section to study and prepare for. If you already feel like you have a ton of SAT prep to do or have doubts about staying motivated, adding on more work can make you feel stressed and end up hurting your scores in the other SAT sections.

#2: It Makes the Exam Longer

Taking the essay will, obviously, increase the total time you spend taking the SAT. You’re given 50 minutes to write the essay, and, including time needed for students not taking the essay to leave and things to get settled, that will add about an hour to the test, increasing your total SAT test time from about three hours to four hours.

If you struggle with keeping focused or staying on your A game during long exams (and, let’s be honest, it’s not hard to lose concentration after several hours of answering SAT questions), adding an additional hour of test time can reduce your test-taking endurance and make you feel tired and distracted during the essay, likely making it hard for you to get your best score.

#3: The Essay Costs Extra

Taking the SAT with the essay will also cost you a bit more money. Taking the SAT without the essay costs $46, but if you choose to take the essay, it costs $14 extra, raising the total cost of the SAT to $60.

However, if you're eligible for an SAT fee waiver, the waiver also applies to this section of the exam, so you still won't have to pay anything if you choose to take the essay.


Taking the essay likely means the cost of taking the SAT will be slightly higher for you.

Should You Take the SAT Essay? Five Scenarios to Help You Decide

Now you know what the SAT essay is and the pros and cons of taking it. So, what should you decide? Five scenarios are listed below; find the one that applies to your situation and follow the advice in order to make the best decision for you.

Scenario 1: You're planning on applying to at least one school that requires the essay

As mentioned above, if even one school you’re thinking about applying to requires the SAT essay, you should take it in order to avoid retaking the entire SAT again at a later date because you need an essay score.

Scenario 2: None of the schools you're applying to look at essay scores

If none of the schools you’re thinking about applying to even look at SAT essay scores, then you shouldn’t take it. Even if you get a perfect score, if the schools don’t consider essay scores, then taking it will have no benefits for you.

Scenario 3: The schools you're applying to don't require the SAT essay and aren't highly competitive

In this case, you don’t need to take the SAT essay, unless you’re trying to make up for weak writing skills in other parts of your application.

Scenario 4: The schools you're applying to recommend the SAT essay and are more competitive

For this scenario, you should take the SAT essay in order to give your application an extra boost, unless you really think you’d perform poorly or preparing for and taking the essay would cause your scores in other sections to decline.

Scenario 5: You aren't sure where you're going to apply yet

If you’re not sure which schools you want to apply to, then you should take the SAT essay, just to be safe. This way you’re covered no matter where you end up applying to college.


If the thought of figuring out which colleges to apply to has you as confused as this blue panda, your safest option is to take the SAT essay.

Because of the College Board’s recent decision to make the SAT essay optional, students are now faced with the decision of whether they should take it or not.  The best way to decide is to learn the essay policy for each of the colleges you're interested in applying to.  Some schools will still require the essay, some won’t even look at an applicant’s essay scores, and other schools don’t require the essay but will look at your score if you do take it.

Use these school policies to help decide whether you should take the essay. Remember, if you end up needing to submit an essay score, you will have to retake the entire SAT, so make sure you have accurate and up-to-date information for each school you are thinking of applying to.

What's Next?

Have you decided to take the essay and want to know how to start studying? We have a step-by-step guide that explains how to write a great SAT essay.

Want more examples of sample prompts? Here are all of the real SAT essay prompts that have been released by the College Board.

Are you aiming for a perfect SAT essay score?  Check out our guide on how to get a perfect 8/8/8 on the SAT essay.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points?  We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Get eBook: 5 Tips for 160+ Points

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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Get a personalized university shortlist based on your preferred course., the sat announces cancellation of essay & subject tests.

The results of the SAT, a standardised test, are essential for your entry to some of the most prestigious universities in the USA and Canada. It assesses an individual’s ability to solve mathematical equations and speak the English language. Over the years, the SAT has seen its fair share of alterations. Since the coronavirus hit our lives, we’ve been left to adapt to the realities of the world, especially students wanting to get admission into well-known universities.  The College Board, the organisation which administers the SAT test , is also ensuring the universities adapt to the times. That is why they’re making some changes to reduce the demands of students as well. One of the major changes from their end is cancelling the SAT Easy test. This decision by the Board was taken last year. In this blog, we’ll cover this new change, what it means for the students, and how the SAT Essay Cancelled affect college admissions.

Table of Contents

SAT Essay Cancelled

As per the notification by the College Board, they will no longer offer the SAT Essay to high school students. It means that school students will no longer be able to schedule to take the SAT Essay exam. However, there’s an exception to this rule. If a student is required to take the SAT Essay exam as part of the high school graduation requirements, they may take the test. Although, there’s a good chance that the states requiring this will drop the requirement in the future. As a student, you must be up to date with the latest updates by staying in touch with your guiding counsellors or high school administrators.

SAT Subject Test Discontinued

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The SAT Announces Cancellation Of Essay & Subject Tests

Like the SAT Essay, the College Board has also decided to cancel the SAT Subject Test. As per the Board, this test doesn’t offer the same value that it once did. The Board used to offer subject tests on topics like grammar, world history, Latin, modern Hebrew, and math.

Reasons For Discontinuing SAT Essay

As mentioned above, the Covid-19 pandemic has been hard for everyone. However, it was especially tough on high school students and the College Board. The SATs were cancelled repeatedly, while many institutes dropped the SAT requirement entirely in the 2020-2022 phase of admissions. The College Board felt that dropping the SAT essay would help reduce the demands for students for now and in the future. Many experts feel that this decision is also a timely and practical one because most universities don’t require SAT Essay scores as part of the admissions process. Many students had already started dropping the SAT Essay test before this notification. In 2020, hardly 57% of students took the essay section with the SAT exam. That is why it’s believed the College Board may have dropped the SAT essay for operational and financial reasons, as well. Getting rid of the essay portion makes the SAT test entirely multiple-choice, allowing automated grading to occur. As a result, the Board would not have to pay the essay scorers. Moreover, it would also pave the way for a level playing field. Many felt that SAT only catered to the privileged and affluent students. Getting rid of the SAT Essay and subject test requirements may enhance perceived accessibility in standardised testing. For similar reasons, the ACT might end up cancelling the ACT Essay, as well.

Reasons For Discontinuing SAT Subject Test

The main reason behind discontinuing the SAT Subject test is the expanded reach of AP exams. With each passing year, AP tests have become more widespread and cover a range of subjects. Moreover, eliminating the subject tests will open seats to students who need to take the SAT and haven’t had the chance to do so due to the coronavirus pandemic. The widespread availability of the AP exam had led to most universities eliminating the subject test requirements. Plus, the language subject tests were mainly being taken by native speakers. So, colleges were not getting vital information in making admission decisions through this test.

Impact of Cancellation on the Students

To put it simply, students wouldn’t be able to take the SAT Essay test unless it is a part of an SAT School Days Requirements. This notification is most impactful for students who had planned to use their essay scores to make their applications stand out from the crowd. For instance, there have been students in the past who’d hoped their essay scores would help overcome a low overall GPA or math score. However, that wouldn’t be an option for the students anymore.

Impact of Cancellation on Admission Process

If your college required the SAT essay in the past, there are going to be various changes that one may see in the admission process. While some universities or schools may drop the essay requirement, others may ask you to submit additional writing samples to fulfil that requirement. Something similar is also possible with departments that used the SAT Essay for the selection process. So, students applying to literature degrees or programmes that require lots of writing (rigorous writing skills) may have to submit additional college essays samples or take a department-specific placement test. However, this decision likely wouldn’t change anything for students applying to universities where the SAT Essay wasn’t a college admissions process requirement in the first place. The reason is that the admission process isn’t affected by the College Board’s policies.

Next Moves to be Made by the Students

Students should check with their potential universities and schools about the admission process. It’ll allow them to see how the new SAT Essay policies will affect their chances and college application. In such a scenario, admission counsellors can be a great help. Some colleges might ask for AP subject test scores or minimum grades in place of subject tests in specific courses from an applicant. SAT Exam For 2022

Encouraged by the coronavirus pandemic, the College Board has been making substantial investments in making the SAT more inclusive and relevant. That is why last year, the College Board announced to discontinue the SAT Essays and Subject Test. This decision was made by the board to reduce the demand on students for both the present and the future. Plus, they feel that these sections do not offer the same value that they once did. Many colleges had already removed SAT essays scores as a selection criterion some years back. Moreover, AP tests have become widely available and cover various subjects, making them a potent replacement for SAT subject tests. They are of greater importance than ever. While the SAT Essay was an optional essay, the decision of discontinuing it is a major one. For further info on the SAT, like the registration deadline and test date information, book a free counselling session on LeapScholar today .

Frequently Asked Questions 

Will colleges still consider Essay scores if I submit them? 

They might. It will vary from college to college. That is why it is best to check with the colleges that you are interested in studying about their application process. Some may consider or require an optional SAT essay as part of their holistic review process.

How can I show my skills in specific subject areas without the opportunity to take SAT subject tests? 

Many colleges use AP scores as an indicator of a student’s ability and interest in a particular subject area. Plus, colleges also have access to the performance of an applicant in specific subjects areas through SAT scores, ACT scores, and high school transcripts, amongst others. So, you can check directly with the colleges you will apply to for alternative ways to support your application.

How can I make my college application stand out now that the SAT Essay is discontinued? 

Some ways to make your college application or registration stand out are showcasing a potent GPA, strong test scores, extracurricular experience, work experience, compelling LORs, and volunteering experience.

Is the SAT Essay Cancelled? If yes, what is the main reason behind it?

As per the College Board, the primary reason for cancelling SAT Essay was to reduce the demand on students. However, reducing finances and making the SAT more accessible for students are also key reasons.

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My 8-year long journey as a SAT trainer has been paved with considerable success, excellent feedback, and extremely satisfactory learning outcomes.

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By Anemona Hartocollis ,  Kate Taylor and Stephanie Saul

In the latest sign of trouble for the standardized testing empire that has played a major role in college applications for millions of students, the organization that produces the SAT said on Tuesday that it would scrap subject tests and the optional essay section , further scrambling the admissions process.

The move comes as the testing industry has been battered by questions about equity and troubled by logistical and financial challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.

Critics saw the changes not as an attempt to streamline the test-taking process for students, as the College Board portrayed the decision, but as a way of placing greater importance on Advanced Placement tests, which the board also produces, as a way for the organization to remain relevant and financially viable.

“The SAT and the subject exams are dying products on their last breaths, and I’m sure the costs of administering them are substantial,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, the vice provost for enrollment management at Oregon State University.

The main SAT, taken by generations of high school students applying to college, consists of two sections, one for math and the other for reading and writing. But since at least the 1960s, students have also had the option of taking subject tests to show their mastery of subjects like history, languages and chemistry. Colleges often use the tests to determine where to place students for freshman courses, especially in the sciences and languages.

But the College Board said the subject tests have been eclipsed by the rise of Advanced Placement exams. At one point, A.P. courses were seen as the province of elite schools, but the board said on Tuesday that “the expanded reach of A.P. and its widespread availability for low-income students and students of color means the subject tests are no longer necessary.”

More than 22,000 schools offered A.P. courses in the 2019-20 school year, up from more than 13,000 two decades earlier, according to the College Board. There are some 24,000 public high schools in America.

More on America’s College Campuses

The College Board said it would discontinue the essay section on the main SAT test because “there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing,” including, it said, the test’s reading and writing portion. The essay section was introduced in 2005 , and was considered among the most drastic changes to the SAT in decades. It came amid a broader overhaul of the test, which included eliminating verbal analogies that were a mainstay of SAT-prep courses.

Admissions officers hoped the essay would give them a way to look at original samples of students’ writing, to better evaluate their skills. It came to be criticized, however, for promoting an overly formulaic approach to writing, and was made optional in 2016 as part of another redesign.

In recent years, the SAT has come under increasing fire from critics who say that standardized testing exacerbates inequities across class and racial lines. Some studies have shown that high school grades are an equal or better predictor of college success.

More than 1,000 four-year colleges did not require applicants to submit standardized test scores before the pandemic, and the number rose — at least temporarily — as the coronavirus forced testing centers to close and made it difficult for many students to safely take the test.

Perhaps the biggest hit came in May, when, following a lawsuit from a group of Black and Hispanic students who said the tests discriminated against them, the influential University of California system decided to phase out SAT and ACT requirements for its 10 schools, which include some of the nation’s most popular campuses.

The College Board acknowledged that the coronavirus had played a role in the changes announced on Tuesday, saying in a statement that the pandemic had “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce the demands on students.”

But David Coleman, the chief executive of the College Board, a nonprofit organization that in the past has reported more than $1 billion a year in revenue, said that financial concerns were not behind the decisions, and that despite the growing number of schools making the SAT optional, demand for the test was still “stronger than some would expect.”

He said the organization’s goal was not to get more students to take A.P. courses and tests, but to eliminate redundant exams and reduce the burden on high school students. “Anything that can reduce unnecessary anxiety and get out of the way is of huge value to us,” he said.

Some experts, though, said eliminating the subject matter tests could have the opposite effect, increasing pressure on students to take A.P. courses and exams, especially in their junior year, so credits can be submitted in time for college admissions decisions.

Saul Geiser, a senior associate at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley, said the move would “worsen the perverse emphasis on test prep and test-taking skills at the expense of regular classroom learning.”

Mr. Geiser said that mastering writing skills and subject matter “is the best predictor of how students perform in college.”

Experts in college preparation said the announcement, while a major change, was partly just a recognition of a shifting environment for standardized testing. Jonathan Richard Burdick, vice president for enrollment at Cornell, said the “handwriting was on the wall for both the subject exams and the essay option long before the pandemic struck.”

Harris Zakarin, part-owner of the test preparation company Regents Review, said consideration of the tests had diminished in recent years. “From my experience, over the past couple of years, it has become extremely rare for a college to require a student to submit an essay with the SAT,” he said.

Mr. Zakarin said he expected that the SAT’s rival, the ACT, would follow suit and eliminate its writing component. The ACT said in a statement that it continuously evaluated demands for its products.

At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, officials dropped the SAT essay requirement in 2016 because they saw it as an undue burden on students, including an added fee, said Mike Drish, the university’s director of first-year admissions.

Mr. Drish said the university evaluated students’ writing preparedness based on their grades in English classes, as well as teacher recommendations and essays submitted as part of the admissions process.

Mark Rosenbaum, director of the California-based pro bono law firm Public Counsel, which represented the plaintiffs who sued the University of California over standardized testing, said the College Board’s decision was a step in the right direction but did not go far enough.

“Everyone knows that A.P. tests are also discriminatory in terms of student access to those tests and preparation for those tests,” Mr. Rosenbaum said. “It’s not like it eliminates racial and class discrimination.”

In addition to dropping the essay and subject tests, the College Board said it would continue to develop a version of the SAT test that could be administered digitally — something it tried and failed to do quickly with an at-home version last year after the pandemic shut down testing centers. The board gave no time frame for when a digital version of the SAT might be introduced, but said it would be given at testing centers by live proctors.

There were about 2.2 million registrations for weekend SAT tests in 2020 (some students take it more than once), but because of the pandemic, only 900,000 such tests were taken.


The SAT Eliminated Its Essay. Now What?

Matthew Pietrafetta

College Board announced last month it will  no longer offer its SAT Subject Tests  effective immediately and eliminate the essay portion (except for states where the essay is required for School Day test administrations).

While the Subject Tests’ elimination made a big splash, the scrapping of the essay likely impacts many more students:  fewer than 500,000  Subject Tests were taken yearly (and students often took multiple Subject Tests, so this represents even fewer students), but  over 1.2 million  took the SAT essay in the class of 2020.

Students will likely welcome the elimination of the essay. Removing the SAT essay means admissions teams will no longer consider the score of a single, timed essay completed at the end of a three-hour-long test.

College Board was  advocating  for the essay’s validity and usefulness in predicting college performance as recently as 2019; instead, college admissions counselors will now rely on a much larger data set: years of high school essay writing in addition to the essays written in the application process.

It’s worth noting that the SAT still includes a rigorous writing and language section, which assesses proofreading skills, so there’s no escaping an important assessment of editing skills, but the essay writing portion is no more.

Some Context: SAT’s Century of Changes 

Over its near century-long existence, the SAT has adjusted both its name and its construct multiple times. Therefore, removing the essay component is not necessarily as momentous as it may be perceived.

In fact, the essay was only  added in 2005 , and this most recent iteration of the essay (a 50-minute rhetorical analysis of a provided persuasive text) has only been part of the test since 2016.

Over the last few years,  fewer and fewer schools  have required the SAT essay as part of a student’s application. In many ways, this change was simply following colleges and admissions teams’ lead.

Better Way to Assess Writing Ability

Photo of someone sitting behind a desk making a test.

In other words, the SAT essay does not reflect the kind of extensive subject-matter engagement required for college-level writing, and its grading doesn’t reflect the assessment most college professors provide for written work.

In the end, eliminating the essay means that college admissions teams will continue to focus on a much better measure of students’ writing ability: four years of sustained writing in English and social studies classes reflected in grades in high school transcripts along with essays carefully crafted throughout the application process.

These examples of writing show not only students’ mastery of writing but also their progress over time, which serves as the best index to their ability to maintain a high level of performance or learn and apply new skills, both essential for success in college.

Ongoing Need for Rigorous Writing Instruction 

College Board explained its elimination of both the essay and Subject Tests as part of an effort to simplify the SAT. Indeed, AP test scores can stand in for the latter and essay composition grades and application essays for the former.

While the ACT has not yet made any indication that it plans to eliminate its optional essay, the SAT’s change is a welcome simplification for test-takers and admissions teams.

College readiness, however, will still require mastery of both grammar and essay composition skills, and admissions officers will always be looking for evidence of mastery of these essential skills.

While the SAT essay is no more, students still need to demonstrate competence in essay composition and proofreading. Educators still need to ensure that students can develop cogent, evidence-based, persuasive arguments and have the mechanical writing skills to share those arguments effectively.

While the SAT is transient, the relevance of those skills and their necessity for college and career readiness persists.

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DISCLAIMER!  The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The College Post.

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Everything You Need To Know About The SAT Essay

Taking the SAT can be a source of stress for many high school students, and a lot of them are confused about the SAT essay. 

Does every SAT taker have to complete the SAT essay section or is it optional? 

How much time will you get to complete this section? 

What does this section really entail? 

These are just some of the many questions that students want answers to. 

Unfortunately, students sometimes end up reading outdated information, which could be disastrous. When the new SAT came into effect in 2016, the essay component underwent significant changes. The new SAT essay rules, requirements, and even the time limit are quite different from the old SAT. When you are looking for information on the SAT essay, make sure the information is about the new SAT. 

The SAT essay section changed in 2016.

Is the SAT Essay Optional? 

Yes, it is. With the redesigned SAT, the essay component is optional. You can choose to take the SAT with or without the essay. This may sound appealing to most students. After all, why take an additional test if you have the option not to? Moreover, not all colleges require the essay portion. So really, should you consider taking it at all or just strike it off your list right away? 

Before rushing into any decisions, there’s something you should know. Some schools may not require you to complete the SAT essay, but others do. How does this affect you? If you decide not to complete the essay component, you won’t be eligible to apply to colleges that require it. This immediately limits the list of colleges you can apply to. 

How much of an impact will this be to you? Should you take a gamble and opt-out of the essay section? That depends entirely on you. If you are very particular about which schools you want to attend, you don’t want to limit your options. On the other hand, if you are more flexible with your school options, you could leave the essay out. 

One way to protect your best interests is to do your college search first. Find out if those you are interested in applying to require applicants to complete the SAT essay. If they do, you have no option but to complete this section. If they don’t, we still recommend that you complete it anyway, as it will boost your application. Completing the essay – and scoring highly in this section – is a great way to show off your reading, analysis, and writing skills. 

Sending SAT Essay Scores to Colleges

Sending your essay scores to your chosen colleges is straightforward. 

College Board allows you to choose which day’s test score to send to your shortlisted schools . This is great because you can choose to send only the test where you scored the highest. 

Once you’ve made your choice, all the scores of that test are sent in one complete report. You cannot break up the report and only send select high scores. If you’ve chosen to complete the essay, your essay scores will be reported along with your other scores of that test day. 

It is important to remember that different schools have different score check policies. Some allow you to send only your best score, while others want to see the scores from all the tests you’ve taken. In this case, all your SAT essay scores will be sent along with your math, reading and writing scores. 

A Look at the SAT Essay – What to Expect

In the SAT essay section, you are given one passage of about 650 – 750 words. You have 50 minutes to read through the passage and analyze it. 

Analyzing the passage does not mean simply stating what the passage is about. It’s also not about agreeing, disagreeing, or sharing your personal opinion about the content. What you are required to do is first identify the point that the passage makes. Then explain at length how the passage builds a persuasive argument to convince readers. 

Let’s say the topic of your passage is, “Global warming isn’t as dire as environmentalists claim it is.” The passage then provides a compelling explanation about why the author thinks this way. Now, you may be passionate about this topic and agree or disagree with this statement. However, you must be very careful not to share your opinions for or against this argument. Don’t get carried away with the information presented or your feelings on this topic. Be objective. Stay focused on what you are required to do – explain how the author assembled the facts and built their argument.   

You can use examples to support your essay. In fact, you should use examples, but these must be extracted from the passage itself. You cannot use examples from other sources to explain your analysis of the passage.      

How the SAT Essay is Scored

The SAT essay is scored separately from the other sections on the SAT. The scores from both sections are not combined. 

Every SAT essay is assessed and scored by two separate evaluators. The assessment is based on three categories – Reading, Analysis, and Writing. You can earn a score of anywhere between 1 and 4 in each of these categories. The individual scores are then added together to give you a total score on your essay. 

Tips for Acing Your Essay

It may seem like there’s a lot of do’s and don’ts and a lot to remember about answering the SAT essay. Answering a few practice essays before your test date will help you prepare so you can ace the SAT essay section.

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