Beginning in February, 2020 standardized exam companies like ETS, GMAC, and CollegeBoard as well as universities and colleges started announcing their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. As these exams move online (temporarily for now, at least) it’s important to know what to expect and how to adjust your prep, as well as knowing whether you even need to take the exam at all. In this article, we’ll be focusing on the latest news regarding the SAT and ACT, college admissions COVID responses, and advice on how to best prepare to take these tests in the uncertain times we’ve found ourselves in.
The CollegeBoard has announced that all SAT test dates are cancelled through August 29th. Students signed up to take the June 6th exam can change their registration to a different 2020/2021 test date once registration opens in late May.
In order to keep up with demand, the CollegeBoard plans to provide one test date every month (starting in August) through the end of the calendar year. Students who are taking the test in the fall due to COVID cancellations or difficulties will have priority. If schools do not reopen, College Board has said that it will then provide a comparable online version of the SAT to be taken at home (similar to what has happened with the GRE and GMAT exams). Since the College Board is already proctoring at home AP exams, the process should be streamlined by August/September.
Students who were initially registered for the April ACT exam were offered a free rescheduling to a future test date. The ACT is currently planning on conducting in-person tests in certain parts of the country on June 13, 2020 and have said that they will be notifying students of test center closings and cancellations the week of May 26th, 2020. For now, the July 18th, 2020 national test is still scheduled as well.
Unlike the SAT, you can see that the ACT has decided to keep its summer testing dates and cancel them closer to the exam if need be. In regards to online testing, the ACT has announced that an at-home version will not be available until late fall or early winter. Also, the online testing option that had previously been announced before the pandemic (taking the exam on a computer at a test center) will begin in September, 2020.
The College/University Response
Across the country, colleges and universities have had varied responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and what it means for college admissions and standardized test scores. The majority’s reaction has been to go ‘test optional’, which means that the college or university has deemed it no longer mandatory for applicants to submit test scores. Some admissions committees have limited this to students seeking to enroll in Fall 2021 (current high school juniors), others have decided to suspend mandatory test score submission for three-four years, and in some cases, permanently.
So, Should I Submit My Test Scores to a Test Optional School? Should I Still Take the SAT/ACT If I No Longer HAVE To?
The first thing you want to do is make a list (if you haven’t already) of the colleges you are planning on applying to. Then, take some time to go to every university’s website to see their updated admissions requirements. If every school you’re applying to has stopped accepting test scores (test blind), then you should not waste time and money taking the SAT or ACT. However, this will not be the case for most students. Even if your top choices are ‘test optional’ you should still plan on taking either or both tests.
If the school(s) you are applying to is test optional, that means they will still be looking at the test scores that are submitted. If you did well on the ACT or SAT compared to that school’s average applicant scores, this could prove to be an advantage over students who you are otherwise comparable to. It can also show that you are willing to go beyond the requirements and do additional work in order to stand out. College is difficult. Proving that you can do well on a standardized exam, although not necessarily indicative of intelligence or future collegiate success, is helpful to admissions officers when considering your readiness for rigorous college level classes.
Many colleges/universities will offer scholarships to students who have not just good grades but also high percentile test scores. If you want to maximize your chances at receiving aid from the school you’ve applied to, it makes sense to prepare to do well on the ACT and/or SAT.
The benefit many college admissions teams see in reviewing students’ ACT & SAT scores is that they are still considered the most objective measure of future success. When you have thousands of students from across the country with different teachers, grading systems, socioeconomic levels, etc. applying to your programs it can simplify things to compare test scores (although there are many studies out there to combat the idea that standardized tests are objective assessments).
In contrast, if a school is ‘test blind’ this means that they are not taking any test scores into account. If you submit them, they will not look at them. Therefore, you will need to rely on the other parts of your application in order to stand out.
Check out fairtest.org for a list of test optional schools.
So if you’ve decided that you’re going to commit to taking the ACT or SAT even if the schools you are applying to are test optional, there is a chance you may be taking the test online sitting at a computer. In this case, we recommend adjusting your preparation to online as well. Get acquainted with tools like the online whiteboard, a computer calculator, and start transitioning away from using physical scratch paper as soon as possible. Even before COVID-19, MyGuru’s Director of Online Tutoring developed an online tutoring curriculum to utilize these tools in order to increase comfort level for students on test day. The more familiarity you have, the less time you’ll waste getting used to online testing in the moment.
About the Author
Morgan is a Managing Tutor for MyGuru, a boutique tutoring company focused on 1-1 in-person and online tutoring for most academic subjects and test prep. For more information on our online approach to tutoring, visit us here or email us at [email protected].