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College Board nixes Subject Tests and the Essay Section: Our Perspective

On Tuesday, the College Board announced two major changes to their standardized testing regime:

  • The SAT will drop the optional essay section. It will now solely be the Math and Verbal (Writing and Reading) multiple-choice sections.

  • The SAT Subject Tests (formerly known as the SAT-IIs) will be dropped immediately in the U.S. and phased out for international students by June 2021.

Here at H&C Education, we believe this frees up your test prep time for activities that will be far more valuable to showing your competitiveness as an applicant to selective universities and earning college credit once you’re there.

What College Board tests actually had an effect?

The College Board also administers the Advanced Placement (A.P.) program. Taking several A.P. exams and earning a 5 on each of them not only can help you get into your top choice university, but to start at a higher level of coursework once you get there. H&C recommends working with your counselors — whether at your school, with us, or both — to identify A.P. courses that are a good fit and to prep for the A.P. exams in May. Another option for earning concurrent credit is to take a college course in high school. During COVID, they might offer those courses in person or online, but regardless of which route fits with your schedule, it’s a great way to stand out. Even before, our Ivy League admission consultants hardly ever recommended students take the “optional” essay on the SAT (or the ACT). The score is not reflected in your overall score, and although strong writing skills are vital for college, it’s not the ideal environment to do your best argumentative writing. Unfortunately, when a test was optional, it sometimes lived in the netherworld for admissions committees, and students felt pressured to tack it on. Few colleges required this test, and it never carried much weight in either admissions or financial aid. If you love writing and excel at it, there are many other options to show that to colleges, including joining or starting a creative writing club or journal at your school, building a website and releasing regular content, taking an elective in writing, and of course, working with H&C experts on writing the all-important college admissions essay. The only constant in this admissions cycle is change, but this streamlining of College Board products will reduce the cost burden to families, decrease ambiguity, and free up time for your highest value test prep efforts.

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