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The Death of the SAT Writing Section and Subject Tests

The SAT. For freshmen, these three letters might create tiny flutters of anxious excitement. For sophomores, these letters may generate creeping feelings of fear, imagining the dreaded test that awaits. For juniors, these letters may leave a feeling of uncertainty - some may not have had the chance to experience the wonders of the SAT, given the difficulties the Covid-19 pandemic produced. No matter where you are on this spectrum, we’re here to reassure you, to explain how the SAT has recently changed and to share how this will impact you. And of course, on the whole, we’re here to reassure you that the SAT is not a dictator of intelligence, but merely a puzzle to be figured out to best celebrate your knowledge.

The Update: SAT Writing and Subject Test Cancellation

The College Board has recently removed the Writing section of the SAT; the SAT will now contain only Evidence-Based Reading, Math (calculator and non-calculator), and writing/English language. They have also cancelled the administration of the SAT Subject Tests, which were previously taken to show proficiency in a subject like American History or Chemistry, for example.

What does this Mean for Me?

  1. It means less writing and less time spent test-taking.

Perhaps implied, the removal of these tests means that students will no longer be required to stay for the additional 45 minutes to an hour required to complete the additional essays associated with Subject Tests and the Writing Section. This means you leave your exams sooner, and you can focus more energy on the other SAT sections. This may decrease student’s test-taking anxiety, as well as decrease prolonged mental strain and fatigue - your brain will thank you for this one!

2. It means a shortened, more efficient college admissions process.

Previously, the SAT writing section and Subject Tests were largely used by colleges to provide a venue for proving one’s writing ability or one’s knowledge regarding a specific subject, respectively. For many AP-level students, this meant that, in addition to dedicating hours to AP coursework and AP exams, students then studied for Subject Tests in the same area for which they’d already completed an AP exam. CollegeBoard recognized this as a repetitive, expensive, and frankly unnecessary process, so they have accordingly abolished Subject Tests, instead encouraging colleges to rely and only require AP/IB-level coursework. As a student, this means that your potential testing load has been cut in half! Now, testing-wise, you will only have to focus on completing AP coursework to the best of your ability and preparing for the SAT (or ACT, of course).

3. It means that instead of preparing for another written standardized test, you can instead focus on telling your story for college admissions.

For many years, colleges have used SAT writing scores to partially gauge writing prowess. With this test removed from the picture, you may have more time as a student to focus on your college admissions essays. With these essays, you can paint a strong picture of who you are and what you love, instead of responding to a bland prompt. Without the SAT writing section, you have the chance to put your creative writing forward!

Okay, even with this extra time and shortened test, the SAT still seems scary…

That is totally okay. Taking tests can be a nerve-wracking experience - you’re not alone there. With preparation and practice, though, you’ll feel your confidence increasing and before you know it, you’ll survive (and ace!) testing day. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this!