Updates in Standardized Testing: 2021

The 20s keep coming, and they don’t stop coming. A little over halfway through 2021, we’ve already been inundated with changes and updates in the standardized testing world. In order to help you (and us) keep these changes straight, we’ve compiled this brief masterlist of updates you need to know:


SAT Subject Tests Discontinued

Early January 2021, the College Board announced that the SAT Subject tests would be discontinued. Ostensibly, this was done to “reduce stress” on students during the Covid-19 pandemic, but this cancelation has continued. College Board is now focused on promoting their AP exams, and many colleges are looking to these in lieu of Subject tests. If you have talked to older siblings or cousins who suggested padding your application with high subject tests, you will now want to focus your efforts on AP Exams instead.


SAT Essay Also Discontinued

The College Board then announced the discontinuation of the Essay portion of the exam (some states require the SAT Essay as part of their core curriculum, and the College Board will continue the essay in only those states). The decision to drop the Essay can be attributed to two reasons. Firstly, the test makers hoped to “reduce demand and stress” on students during the pandemic. Secondly, very few colleges required or even looked at the SAT Essay anyway, making this a practical choice for the company. If you had been hoping to use your SAT Essay score to stand out, shift your attention to your college essay, where you can achieve the same sparkling results.


“Test Optional” Just Highlights the Reasons to Take the SAT or ACT

The college of your dreams might not require a standardized test score anymore, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no reason to take the exams. Note that test optional doesn’t mean test blind. Admissions offices will still look at tests when considering applicants. Putting in the effort to get a good score and willingly sending it in is a great way to show off your knowledge, exude confidence, and stand out from the crowd.

Furthermore, good scores on standardized tests can still qualify you for various scholarships and even help you skip the introductory levels of courses in your first year of college. If you are able to take the SAT or ACT, then do it! Submitting a good score can only help you. Afterall, since test-optional applications began, students who scored in the 25th percentile (and submitted these scores) were accepted at twice the rate of their peers who didn’t submit. This trend continues below the 25th percentile, with students submitting their test scores getting admitted at a 1.25% higher rate.


ACT Now Includes Graphs on Reading Section

This follows a long tradition of the ACT and the SAT lovingly stealing formats from one another. From now on, the ACT Reading section will feature graphs and synthesis questions involving those graphs just like the SAT does.


ACT Accommodation Changes

Getting testing accommodations (like split day testing or extended time) has become easier for some students. If a student has an existing IEP or 504 plan, the ACT will automatically approve accommodations in line with those plans. The ACT website claims that this will expedite the process and remove an obstacle students face so that they can spend more time studying and less time worrying about whether they will get accommodations or not.


We hope that this has helped you navigate the shifting landscape of Standardized Testing and college applications. We look forward to helping you with your standardized test, AP exam, and college essay journeys!

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