The End of SAT Subject Tests and Essay. The Move Toward a Digital SAT.

January 21, 2021

On January 19th the College Board announced changes to the SAT and Subject Tests this year. Here’s the update:

SUBJECT TESTS have been discontinued in the U.S. As a result, Subject Test registrations in the U.S. will be automatically canceled and registrants will receive a refund. SAT Subject Tests will be discontinued for students residing in international locations as of June of 2021.

THE SAT WRITING SECTION will be discontinued at the close of June 2021 test dates (except in states in which it is required for SAT School Day administrations). Students who have registered for the SAT with the Writing section this spring may drop the Writing section from their registration on College Board’s website without losing their seat for the test itself. Students will be refunded the additional cost of the Writing section.

A New Path

DIGITAL FORMAT OF THE SAT: The College Board has also announced that they are considering changes to the format of the test itself. In a press release, the College Board stated that it “is investing in a more flexible SAT—a streamlined, digitally delivered test that meets the evolving needs of students and higher education.”

Further news on the development of a digital exam format is expected this spring, and we will continue to monitor news regarding the announcement of a more digitally-delivered SAT in the future.

While the timing of this news initially came as a mild surprise, it has been expected for some time by many who work in college admissions.

According to the College Board, the “expanded reach” of widely-available AP exams has allowed students of all backgrounds to display their knowledge and aptitude in a variety of subject areas-and at the college level. In contrast, SAT Subject Test registrations have been on the steep decline in recent years as colleges across the country have phased out their requirement.

Regarding the elimination of the Writing section, the SAT will continue to measure writing and reading comprehension skills as a part of the standard exam, according to the College Board.

What Does This Mean for Your Student – Short Term

It’s hard to see this news as anything other than a good thing for high schoolers. If your student is registered to take the SAT or ACT this year, Summit recommends that they remain focused and continue to prepare for the test as scheduled. In fact, the elimination of the Subject Tests, which some students had planned to take in the spring, now opens up May and June as advantageous times to sit for the SAT or ACT.

If Your Student is a Junior (Class of 2022):

SAT Subject Tests: If your student is a junior, they can cross Subject Tests off their to-do list for the spring! If they’re registered for AP exams, we recommend that your student concentrates on AP Test preparation. Please consult with your student’s college counselor with any questions regarding the availability of AP exams in your area, and to find out if taking an AP exam is the right move for your student. As a reminder, Summit does offer tutoring for most AP subjects. APs are administered by schools in mid-to-late May, and most students will begin their preparation one to two months in advance of the test date.

SAT Writing Section: If your student is planning on registering for the SAT this spring but has not yet done so, it is safe to register for the test without the optional Writing section.  If your student has already registered for the SAT this spring with the Writing section, they should feel safe in changing their registration to drop the Writing section. If you are unsure whether dropping the optional Writing section this spring makes the most sense for your student, please feel free to reach out to a Summit program director for advice or call your school counselor.

If Your Student is a Sophomore (Class of 2023):

SAT Subject Tests: If your student is a sophomore, we recommend that you consult with your student’s college counselor prior to the start of 2021-22 school schedule planning so that your student chooses classes that will best allow them to meet educational goals during the key junior year. SAT Subject Tests will no longer be available next year, so AP testing may make the most sense for your student. Your school counselor will be able to advise you on changes in college admission practices that may occur as a result of this change in the next school year. And, as always, we are more than happy to work with families to help them make the best testing decisions. Feel free to contact us at us at or 800-698-8867 to set up your student’s testing plan for the year ahead!

SAT Writing Section: The SAT Writing section will no longer be available next year and beyond.

What Does This Mean for Your Student – Long Term

Beyond these short-term considerations, it remains to be seen how the shifting testing landscape will alter college admissions.

  1. With the elimination of subject tests and the essay, students will be free to build their college resume with academic achievements, rigor of curriculum choices, and SAT/ACT scores, should they choose to submit them. The College Board will make a greater push for its AP curriculum and exams in places where they’re not offered. Summit will continue to deliver top notch academic and AP tutoring programs, while innovating and developing related services.
  2. Digital SAT testing is coming to college entrance exams. Here at Summit we’re certainly very interested in the advent of the digital SAT, a development we have long anticipated. In 2020 we began developing our own digital testing, and released ACT, SSAT and ISEE digital practice tests this past summer, with SAT digital practice tests coming this spring. One thing is for sure: once the College Board launches its digital SAT, we’ll be ready. Summit will remain committed to our students’ success on these tests, which includes ensuring that they are comfortable and confident testing in whatever form the tests are delivered.

Higher Education

As mentioned above, it’s hard to see these changes as anything other than a positive for students. As to how these changes will reverberate among colleges and universities, some of that does remain to be seen. In the short term, at least, the elimination of Subject Tests clarifies college admissions requirements and streamlines students’ testing plans. It is likely that AP tests will also see a continued boost in popularity from this. The elimination of the Writing section, on the other hand, is unlikely to make much of an impact at all, as the overwhelming majority of admissions offices around the country had already dropped its consideration.

As always, Summt will continue to monitor the impact of testing on the higher ed landscape. We will keep you posted with further updates on how colleges adjust practices moving forward.


Summit’s trained proctors administer practice tests in-person at our offices (with safety protocols) and virtually (using Zoom). Students may choose to self-proctor with the aid of Summit’s video-recorded proctor or our online self-timer tool.

Learn More

Questions? Contact us at: or 800-698-8867.

Read the full College Board press release.

Read the College Board FAQs.


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