College Board Eliminating Optional Essay on the SATs

As students and colleges adapt to new realities and changes to the college admissions process, the College Board is making sure our programs adapt with them.

The pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students. As part of this process, we’re making substantial investments in the SAT Suite and in tools to help colleges connect with students. We’re providing three updates today and will continue to consult with our members on this ongoing work.

First, we’re discontinuing SAT Subject Tests.

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.

AP provides students rich and varied opportunities to showcase their knowledge and skills through college-level coursework. Courses like AP Computer Science Principles and AP Capstone provide the type of hands-on learning experiences and practical, real-world work that colleges want to see from students.

We are no longer offering the Subject Tests in the U.S. Students in the U.S. will automatically have their registrations canceled and receive a refund. Because Subject Tests are used internationally for a wider variety of purposes, we will provide two more administrations in May and June of 2021 for students in international locations. International students can call Customer Service to cancel their registration for a full refund if they no longer want to take Subject Tests.

We’ve reached out to our member colleges, and they will 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.

Second, we are discontinuing the optional SAT Essay.

This decision recognizes that there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing. At the same time, writing remains essential to college readiness, and the SAT will continue to measure writing and editing skills. The tasks on the SAT Reading and Writing and Language tests are among the most effective and predictive parts of the SAT. Students can take the SAT with Essay through the June 2021 SAT administration.

After June 2021, the Essay will only be available in states where it’s required for SAT School Day administrations for accountability purposes. Students registered for the SAT with Essay this spring can cancel the Essay portion at any time, free of charge.

Third, we are investing in a more flexible SAT—a streamlined, digitally delivered test that meets the evolving needs of students and higher education.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of being innovative and adaptive to what lies ahead. We are committed to making the SAT a more flexible tool, and we are making substantial investments to do so. We’re consulting with our members in K–12 and higher education and will have more to share about that work later this spring.

There’s still a clear demand from students to take the SAT as a way to show their strengths to colleges. Most immediately, we’re working to provide as many opportunities as possible for students in the class of 2022 to take the SAT this year, including by:

  • Allocating seats that would have gone to students taking Subject Tests to students who want to take the SAT.
  • Being prepared to expand capacity for existing administrations and add administrations in the fall if the pandemic continues to impact testing this spring.

Through it all, we’ll continue to prioritize the health and safety of students and staff; all safety requirements that were in place last fall will remain at least through the spring 2021 administrations.

Support for Educators and Students

We understand these changes may impact educators’ work with students and families. We’re here to help you navigate the ever-changing landscape and will continue to support you through these uncertain times. We’ll reach out directly to students registered for SAT Subject Tests and the SAT with Essay to inform them of these changes in the coming days and provide support and resources for our K–12 and higher education members.

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