A World Without SAT Literature Subject Tests: What Now?

Carolina Jacobs

Jan 14, 2022

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One of the ways many students have traditionally prepped for college is by taking exams like the ACT and SAT. However, college entry requirements have changed over the last few years, and tests are changing with them. 

The SAT literature subject test evolved out of early achievement tests and showed students’ proficiency in English and literature. After years of use, the College Board eliminated SAT subject tests as a college prep option in early 2021.

Here’s everything you need to know about the College Board’s decision and how it could affect your college admissions process: 

The Disappearance of SAT Subject Tests

Although some colleges in 2021 recommended or required SAT subject tests, most schools were phasing out of that model and considering grades and extracurricular activities instead. The rising value of advanced placement (AP) courses meant that SAT subject tests had lost much of their value to colleges. 

On their website, the College Board states that eliminating SAT subject tests should help to reduce pressure on overburdened students who have to complete many other college entry requirements. 

This decision also helped to reduce pressure during the Coronavirus pandemic, when students had to cancel and postpone all of their pre-college tests. Colleges are now focusing less on test scores, and the College Board felt that SAT subject tests were no longer relevant. 

Since SAT subject tests aren’t available anymore, colleges will no longer require them. However, students who have already taken these exams can still use them when applying to colleges. Their scores still demonstrate commitment and hard work. 

Is There a Replacement for the SAT Lit Subject Test?

The best exam to take instead of the SAT Literature Subject Test is a relevant high school AP course. Some students study for AP exams independently, but taking the full course as part of a high school curriculum is usually a better choice. 

There are several reasons why AP courses have replaced subject tests in college admissions. First of all, AP courses have rigorous content and assignment requirements that approach college-level work. AP courses show that students are challenging themselves. 

Because of their challenging content, AP courses are weighted as more valuable than other high school courses. For example, getting a B grade in an AP course won’t necessarily damage a student’s 4.0 GPA. Colleges like to see students challenging themselves and excelling at studying complex material, so AP classes look great on a transcript. 

Because AP courses are challenging, they allow students to develop college-level study and learning skills before officially transitioning to a university. Students who score well on AP exams can count these classes for college credit, saving themselves time and money later. 

In addition, students who complete AP exams have access to more scholarships and financial aid programs for college. AP courses show the kind of academic achievement scholarship providers are looking for in students, and some scholarships are offered only to students who have taken AP courses. 

Is the SAT Still Relevant in 2021? 

Although SAT literature subject tests no longer exist, the actual SAT is still required for college entry at some universities. Students should check the requirements of each college they’re interested in before deciding whether or not to take the SAT. 

During the height of the pandemic, many colleges temporarily changed their policies to accommodate students who couldn’t take their exams. While some colleges have made these changes permanent, others have not. 

There have been arguments for years about the validity and usefulness of standardized tests, and Covid has shown students and schools what a test-optional world looks like. Even if schools begin requiring standardized test scores after the pandemic, the admissions process will never be the same again. 

If test scores are no longer as important as before, other aspects of students’ high school experiences will become more valuable for college admissions. However, some students may still want to consider taking the SAT to ensure they meet the requirements of every school they’re interested in.

How Important Are Test Scores for College Admission?

Most colleges consider high school grades and students’ course loads of primary importance in the admissions process. However, for some colleges, challenging courses and good grades only meet the bare minimum for entry requirements. 

Because college entry requirements vary across the board, students should plan to fulfill the entry requirements of the colleges they’re specifically interested in. Colleges want to admit students who will be successful and bring a lot to their universities, so they look for signs of motivation, dedication, and passion in potential students. 

Many experts stress the importance of a well-written college essay as a way for students to show colleges more of their personality, dreams, and unique gifts. Many colleges also look for volunteering experience, overall GPA, and work experience. 

Although college admission requires a lot, students should avoid overwhelming themselves with too many AP courses and extracurricular activities. No one can do everything, and ultimately, college admissions are affected by many factors outside of what students can do.  

College Admissions Without SAT Subject Tests

The world of college admissions is changing, but a strong high school curriculum and excellent grades are still relevant for the admissions process. For some colleges, standardized test scores will also continue to be valuable. 

While students can no longer take the SAT Literature Subject Tests, they can invest in AP courses that showcase their strengths and prepare them for college courses. AP courses are an excellent alternative to subject tests and will continue to benefit students throughout their educational journey. 

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