SAT Subject Tests Canceled: What Are the Implications?

InGenius Prep

SAT Subject Tests Canceled: What Are the Implications?

You’ve probably already heard the news that has been making headlines all over the college admissions scene in the past few hours—"SAT subject tests canceled." If you’re a high school student hoping to be admitted to a top college, you might have had your eyes on one of the subject tests in order to show your prowess in a certain field. You’re now left with the question of what’s next?

As soon as you saw the words “SAT subject tests canceled, a number of questions and scenarios might have run through your mind. When does this change take effect? How does this impact your college application process? How should you make up for your subject test scores? To answer all these and more, we have gone over the announcement itself, how to navigate your application in light of this news, and what you might have to do in order to demonstrate strength in certain subject areas.

SAT Subject Tests Canceled: The Announcement

On the 19th of January, the College Board announced that it will no longer offer SAT subject tests. Reflecting on a year of COVID-19 impacting the testing landscape in various ways, the Board said that the pandemic ““accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students.” The timeline of this announcement is simple: The “SAT subject tests canceled” headline goes into effect immediately for all test centers in the US and after the May and June 2021 administrations for tests given internationally (including Canada). In addition, in light of the pandemic, the College Board will be working on a more flexible and streamlined version of the SAT that can be digitally delivered. There is not yet any official timeline for this change and the College Board will share more information about this later in the spring. The organization is also cancelling the optional Essay on the SAT after June 2021 administration. 

The majority of colleges had already made the SAT optional in the 2020-2021 application cycle, with some testing out test-optional pilot programs of up to three years. The University of California has gone completely test blind. With the “SAT subject tests canceled” announcement, students interested in schools that specialize in certain fields such as engineering or math, may have to find alternative ways to prove their prowess to admissions officers.

What Does This Mean for Students Already Registered for Subject Tests?

If you are registered to take any SAT subject tests in the United States, your registration status will be automatically cancelled and your registration fee will be refunded. You do not need to do anything and you will NOT be able to take the exam as planned. If you had registered to take any SAT subject tests outside of the United States, you have the choice to either take the test as planned (in May or June) OR cancel your registration for a full refund. This is true regardless of whether you attend high school in the US or not.

Impact on College Admissions Process

The announcement of “SAT subject tests canceled” brings the question of what’s next for prospective college students. How does this change impact your college application process and admissions chances? We know from our vast network of Former Admissions Officers that selective US Colleges have never made admissions decisions solely based on the results from the SAT subject tests (or AP tests) a student takes. Compared to school course grades and interesting and meaningful extracurriculars, SAT subject tests (and other standardized tests) are much less important—they only complement information that can already be found throughout other components of your Common Application profile.

Admissions officers are much more interested in seeing students doing interesting and meaningful exploration of their interests and/or contributing to their communities than studying for another exam. So, not having any SAT subject tests will NOT negatively impact your chances, especially if you dedicate the extra time towards leadership and collaboration initiatives that can make a tangible impact on your community.

Even though we haven’t yet seen colleges respond to this announcement, we anticipate that many colleges will continue to make SAT subject tests optional, or even be test blind for SAT subject tests (i.e. won’t consider them even if you submit your scores).

How to Show Strength In Your Fields of Interest

With SAT subject tests canceled, the question on your mind is: how do you make up for them? Are there certain ways to highlight that you’re particularly strong in biology or math, which you would have previously conveyed through SAT subject test scores? 

One option is to take a challenging course load. SAT subject tests are just one of the many ways to demonstrate your academic capabilities. Other factors include your high school course rigor, your high school grades, your teacher’s letter of recommendation, and your exploration of academic interests outside of school. Not having SAT subject tests available means that the other components will become more important in evaluating your application. As a result, you must push yourself in the semesters to come. Make sure that you’re taking the most challenging courses available to you in your field. With hard work comes strong letters of recommendation. Schools will be using these to evaluate your academic prowess.

You might be wondering, with SAT subject tests canceled, whether it means that you should primarily focus on AP classes since the College Board also administers the AP tests. If you are taking AP courses at school, then you should definitely register for the AP exam of those courses. If your school is on the IB curriculum, then doing well on your IB assessments is a lot more important than taking AP exams. AP exams are not necessary if you’re on the IB curriculum.  If your school does not follow the IB curriculum AND does not offer AP courses, BUT your course covers many of the topics covered in an AP course and you’d be well-prepared to take the AP exam, then you can consider taking the AP exams for which your courses best prepare you. If you are not sure, talk to your teachers at school. They will have the best idea on whether your course curriculum will prepare you well for any AP exams.

Hopefully, we’ve answered some of the biggest questions on your mind since the “SAT subject tests canceled” announcement was made. Ultimately, the most important factors when it comes to building a strong application are to make sure you’ve continued achieving high grades in school and taking steps to stand out as a leader in your extracurriculars. A strong GPA is the result of a sustained effort in the classroom—focus on taking challenging subjects and performing well in them, and hopefully you’ll put yourself in a strong place academically, without requiring SAT subject test scores. Good luck!

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