by Ashley McCarrick

I can’t say that I’ll miss the SAT Subject Tests.

For more than 15 years, I have tried to explain SAT Subject Tests to families. It’s not easy to combat the confusion between the regular SAT® test (and its many iterations over the years) and the SAT Subject Tests, hour-long assessments of a student’s knowledge in specific areas. Yesterday’s announcement that College Board will no longer offer SAT Subject Tests means that my days of mindbending explanations are over.

Don’t put on your party hats yet. There will be plenty of questions and confusion to come, some of which I attempt to answer here.

Let’s be very clear—SAT Subject Tests are NOT the same as the SAT test.

The regular SAT test isn’t going anywhere. However, after June, the optional Essay component will be discontinued.

You’ve never heard of SAT Subject Tests? You’re not alone. Unless your high school counselor was incredibly proactive, you used a private college counselor, attended KD College Prep, or you did intensive research on college admissions, these tests were likely a mystery.

Why are SAT Subject Tests going away?

Concerns over access had gradually reduced the number of highly selective colleges that required SAT Subject Tests to zero. Students of color and low-income students were much less likely to take SAT Subject Tests, making the requirement a barrier to some of the nation’s top colleges.

The pandemic was the final straw. Students had trouble taking the regular SAT test, much less fitting in an extra test date for SAT Subject Tests. Seats on national test days were at a premium and the decreased demand for SAT Subject Tests didn’t justify the dedicated space and proctors needed.

Several years ago, the SAT Subject Tests weren’t redesigned to reflect changes in the AP® curriculum. When College Board didn’t invest in a redesign, we knew the end was coming. It was just a matter of time before College Board cut its losses and moved on.

In the end, it’s about money. In the College Board’s perfect world, all high schools would purchase Pre-AP® and AP® curriculum for all students, not to mention AP tests. This is a huge investment for school districts. Things might be trickier now for high schools that don’t use AP curriculum, especially depending on the colleges’ reactions to the decision. Only time will tell, but we’ll keep you updated.

This change will affect some students more than others.

Many colleges used SAT Subject Tests to evaluate homeschooled students. Regardless of high school curriculum, students used the tests to demonstrate subject mastery. It is unclear what changes colleges will make to the admissions process for these students.

Students who love waking up early on Saturday mornings to take extra tests, you’re out of luck too.

When do the changes take place?

All future administrations of the SAT Subject Tests in the U.S. are canceled. Students who registered for May and June SAT Subject Tests will automatically receive a refund. You will not receive any money for an “Inconvenience Fee,” which might be confusing since College Board charges a “Change Fee” if you need to reschedule.

International administrations will take place in May and June of 2021 since these tests are used for other purposes overseas.

If a student has already taken SAT Subject Tests, will they be considered?

It will be up to each college to determine new testing policies. Most colleges are in application reading season for the class of 2021 right now, so decisions will likely come later this spring. Colleges will need time to react to the changes, so information on websites and brochures may be out-of-date for several months.

What should I do now?

Live your life. The SAT Subject Tests are another victim of the pandemic, albeit much less precious than the lives of family and friends. In a year of changes, hard times, and heroic effort, this news isn’t earth-shattering. Take your schoolwork seriously, take care of yourself and others, and stay focused on your goals. You matter.

Need help preparing for college?

Since 1992, KD College Prep has helped more than 65,000 students achieve their college goals. Learn more about our test prep and college counseling programs.

Ashley McCarrick has helped students reach their college goals since 2004 and is the Vice President of Client Development for KD College Prep. As a lead member of the College Counseling team, Ashley develops and presents educational programs about the college admissions process and provides individual guidance to parents and students as a college counselor. Ashley is a member of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, Lewisville ISD Advisory Council, and a frequent contributor to the KD College Prep blog.