Bye-Bye, SAT Subject Tests and SAT Essay!

Collegeboard has discontinued SAT Subject Tests (1 hr subject tests in specific areas like Physics, Bio, Spanish etc.) and the optional Essay. Why? It's simple – because of COVID19, test centers being canceled etc they want all focus on the SAT Reasoning Test – so they are eliminating any possible barrier or burden that could get in the way of full focus on the Reasoning Test (the test scores out of 1600 that includes Verbal and Math). Look – they really want to stay in business!

They have also announced plans to offer the SAT Online – and that may be coming for the end of year administrations. At AIM we offer computerized Mock Exams, but have reverted to having students shade using bubble sheets because that is how the test is administered right now. When Collegeboard shifts we will be ready, and so will you.

Now the Optional Essay was only required by the University of California system ANYWAY so it was about time Collegeboard cut it out and ceased confusing parents / students. Go Collegeboard! No implication for you here as AIM's recommendation has always been "don't waste your time!".

The SAT Subject Test discontinuation was surprising especially because the more competitive colleges actually did use them, even though they were 'optional'. But last year MIT and Princeton announced that they would not use them at all – and when elite universities like those make decisions, they turn into trends (last year Princeton paused SAT Reasoning Test requirement for 1 year, and will require for 2022 admission).

Many Canadian, UK and European universities actually depended on SAT Subject Tests as part of qualification for admission from US High School applicants. They allowed students to show talent in specific subjects, and really gave students the chance to shine and stand out, especially if they did not have AP exams at their schools OR if they were not able to take a certain subject at CAPE / A Level / IB or honors level – or got a weak grade on the external exam and wanted to show colleges that it was an anomaly.

Now universities are saying they will use AP subject scores as a replacement for this measure and Collegeboard is pushing this narrative – however SAT Subject tests did afford flexibility, let us say AP tests aren't available in a students' country or at their school ... they were not able to take them.

Let's face it this is a financial decision from Collegeboard, even if they won't say so – the number of kids taking subject tests dwindled significantly under COVID with so many last minute cancellations angering parents and students alike (yes AIMers I remember your emails!) ... as for the SAT essay – that was already completely irrelevant.

Yesterday's announcement says that College Board is "investing in a more flexible SAT—a streamlined, digitally delivered test."

We are not 100% sure how that will be more flexible unless it is administered from home, which CB says they will not do.

This change will lead admissions officers to put even more emphasis on results on AP exam results, CAPE / A Level exam results, IB Predicted Scores, and grades in advanced / honors classes in upcoming admissions cycles.

It is even more important for students at US Boarding / Private schools to take advanced classes an do well in them since there will be no other opportunity to demonstrate academic rigor and talent.

  • take advanced classes and do well (GPA in core courses is MAJOR key!)
  • ACE your CAPE / A Level / AP exams and go for HIGH Predicted IB scores
  • present highest possible SAT Reasoning Test / ACT scores
  • take college courses for credit and get GREAT grades – this shows readiness for college work (summer summer summer... and yes they ARE available online)
I want to emphasize that overall the loss of a data point means you have to BRING IT in the other areas:
  • Stand-out extra curricular involvement, leadership, and impact that is authentic to who the student is, especially SUMMER

    (fyi do not stop doing extracurricular because they can't happen face to face!!)

  • Unique Value Proposition articulated in a COMPELLING and CONSISTENT narrative on the application itself, essays, supplements and interviews
  • STRONG teacher recommendations (we give our students a template to properly guide teachers so they give colleges what they really want... not platitudes and sweeping generalizations and adjectives)
  • Engagement virtually (and in person, if / where possible) with the colleges of a students' interest – and trust me colleges are taking this "Demonstrated Interest" SO SO seriously!
So AIMers – work on that resume! Here is a template we have just for you... High School Resume Template.

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Author: Nicole McLaren Campbell
Nicole is founder of AIM Educational Services (now AIM Online Academy) and the Teen Success Club. Nicole is a college counseling expert and has been helping students for more than 10 years attain their college dreams.

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