Posted on: January 19, 2021
Today, the College Board announced the end of the Subject Test program, effective immediately. We’ve long seen this change coming, since fewer and fewer colleges required subject tests, culminating in 2020, when they were no longer required for admission at any schools. The College Board spent the last decade overhauling both the SAT and all of the AP exams, but it has never made any changes to the somewhat antiquated subject tests: they still retained the “guessing penalty” of the old SAT, and their content was no longer an accurate reflection of the AP curricula, the driver of much classroom content, which meant students had to do extra prep outside the classroom in order to be fully prepared for them.
Students in the United States currently signed up to take subject tests will see their registrations automatically canceled and their money refunded. But what about students who’ve already prepared for and taken tests? Colleges have yet to comment on how existing subject tests will be considered, and we’ll keep you posted when they do.
But how does this change affect students moving forward?
The absence of subject tests, typically taken at the end of junior year, gives students a little more latitude in planning their testing calendars. In the past, many students would want to be completely finished with SAT and ACT testing before May, so that the SAT dates in May and June could be reserved for the Subject Tests. That’s no longer the case, so students now have more flexibility to start their testing later in junior year if that’s what’s best for them. That might be particularly helpful to students who play a demanding fall sport or those taking Algebra 2 in junior year, who might benefit from more time in math class before the test. That being said, well-equipped students with time on their hands over the summer and fall might still find it helpful to get the SAT or ACT out of the way sooner rather than later so that they can focus on their ever-important junior year grades. And many students will still want to complete their standardized testing by early spring — especially those taking AP Exams, which are given over the first two weeks of May.
More AP Exams?
The demise of the Subject Tests can also be partially attributed to the ascendancy of the AP exams. As the College Board announcement notes, more and more students are taking AP exams every year and, while they are not technically required by colleges, they’ve been the de facto replacement for subject tests for some time. It will be interesting to see whether colleges place more focus on APs going forward, especially those with programs that tended to place more of a premium on Subject Tests, such as engineering schools.
It seems safe to say that the loss of Subject Tests certainly won’t make APs less important in coming years, but even so, students should be careful about which and how many APs to take. While it was relatively “easy” for students to add a few subject tests to their schedules in order to apply to schools that recommended them, adding a few more AP classes is orders of magnitude more difficult. The College Board’s own statistics show that the average score on AP exams is a better predictor of college success than the number of exams taken, so students should not take this news as a directive to add more APs to their already overly full schedules. Trying to do so and lowering your GPA is good for neither your health nor your college admissions chances! Take the APs you were planning to take and do well in those classes and on those exams.