SAT Subject Tests and What They’ll Be Replaced With

You’ve probably heard the news: SAT subject tests are on their way out. They’ve been discontinued in the United States, and starting in June, they’ll be phased out internationally as well. So, what’s a student to do? Cardinal Education is here with why this change has been made, how this will affect your application, and how you should approach this going forward.

Why Are SAT Subject Tests Being Removed?

The College Board’s official explanation is thus: “We’re reducing demands on students. The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know.” There’s a lot to unpack here in such a short sentence—the most important point of which is that the CollegeBoard finds SAT Subject Tests to be redundant compared with AP tests; AP tests are generally agreed to be a more in-depth and effective way of assessing students’ skills than the SAT subject tests. Though AP tests are more expensive ($95 per AP test compared to $30 per Subject Test) and thus financial demand on students will go up, this reduces the academic demand on test-taking students.

In addition, it’s becoming increasingly clear from the data that the SAT Subject Test is no longer a worthwhile investment for the CollegeBoard. From 2011 to 2017, the number of students taking such tests has declined 30%, and school after school dropped Subject Test requirements. As stated before, the subject tests have become redundant; with AP scores, high school transcripts, and general SAT scores or ACT scores, how much more information on a student’s academic performance does a college really need? 

What Does the Dropping of the SAT Subject Tests Mean For Me?

When you first heard this news, you most likely celebrated. And yes, it’s a whole big weight off your shoulders not to have to do one further set of additional tests, on top of AP exams/IB exams and the SAT or ACT. However, now that you have more time not spent studying for the SAT Subject Tests, you’ll have to use that time wisely. Invest in your AP classes and exams, as those will be directly replacing the subject tests as a measure of how well you know a particular subject. To attend a top school, aim for as many 5’s as possible, with nothing lower than a 4.

For those of you who are relying on high Subject Test scores to make up for parts of your application that you feel are lacking, never fear—you may still be able to submit any scores you already have. And for those who have no subject tests at all, there’s still time to make up for the disadvantage that this causes. Put more energy into your classes if your GPA is what’s lacking, especially your remaining APs. Try thinking of new ways to excel in extracurriculars. Invest time in the ACT or the regular SAT instead; the APs aren’t the only existing tests that could carry more weight now that subject tests are gone. No matter what, you can find a way to succeed, even as the college admissions process gets more and more competitive.