The College Board is doing away with SAT Subject Tests. What does that mean for homeschoolers?

For decades, college admissions tests such as the SAT and ACT have been some of the many hurdles high school students had to conquer before attending college. But this process—like so many other parts of life—changed due to COVID-19.

During 2020, the number of high school students signing up to take college admissions exams dropped dramatically. And now that many colleges have temporarily (and some permanently) waived their requirements for SAT and ACT test scores, that trend is sure to continue.

College Board, the company behind the SAT and Advanced Placement (AP) tests, has had to find ways to stay relevant and financially feasible in a world where their tests are no longer a necessary part of applying for college. Their latest attempt at this is discontinuing SAT Subject Tests.

For homeschoolers, the SAT Subject Tests have been a way of demonstrating the rigor of a student’s educational program. Students were able to demonstrate their proficiency in a wide range of subjects not tested on the principal SAT assessment, such as biology, history, and foreign languages. The subject tests have also been effective at strengthening and validating a homeschool transcript, especially for students applying to highly selective colleges.

But the College Board argues that AP tests play the same role as the SAT Subject Tests. Traditionally, AP tests and SAT Subject Tests have had different purposes, the former used to receive college credit before setting foot on campus, the latter to prove college readiness. But now that most students have access to AP testing through College Board's online platform, the organization has argued that the SAT Subject Tests are redundant and unnecessary. Many of the people who write the SAT Subject Tests also write the corresponding AP tests, so the two options are academically very similar.

Will the SAT be obsolete?

While the online availability of AP testing means this change won’t have a great effect on homeschoolers, what does it mean about the future of college admissions tests? Is this an indicator that the principal SAT test may become a thing of the past?

Eventually yes, but not just yet.

There is still a high demand among students for college entrance exams to prove readiness for college. In the College Board’s announcement about ending the subject tests, the company stated that they are releasing a streamlined, digitally delivered SAT test in the near future to accommodate a world in which everything else can be done online. But with fewer colleges requiring college entrance exams, the demand for them will inevitably decline.

College admissions exams have long been criticized for failing to accurately measure a student’s abilities. As so many families have discovered, education is not one-size-fits-all, and a three-subject test such as the SAT simply cannot demonstrate all that a student is capable of. No longer requiring these tests may help colleges and universities shift their focus to more personalized ways of evaluating applicants’ abilities.

But HSLDA still handles some cases where students are told by colleges and trade schools that their homeschool diploma is invalid or just not good enough. These schools are wrong, of course, and HSLDA always sets them straight. But the SAT and similar tests have been helpful tools to prove that homeschool students are just as prepared for college as their public and private school peers are.

Because every state recognizes the legality of homeschooling as an alternative form of education, no student should be turned away from colleges simply because they were homeschooled. However, only four states have laws explicitly declaring that a homeschool diploma should be viewed as equal to any other high school diploma. If the SAT and other similar tests disappear entirely, these laws will become more important than ever to prevent homeschool discrimination.

If you have questions about your high schooler’s next steps in the college admissions process and you’re a member of HSLDA, please reach out to our educational consultants here or at (540) 338-5600.

Exploring other options

There are still other test options available that students can take in place of the SAT Subject Tests. As mentioned above, AP tests contain similar material and offer college credit. The ACT and CLT are both college entrance exams alternatives to the principal SAT test. For more information on taking these tests, go here.