Updated: Dec 3, 2020
The question of college admissions testing is complicated in the best of times. Now, during these unprecedented and uncertain times, there are more questions than answers. As it relates to testing, as of today, in response to the Coronavirus, here is what we know:
ACT: ACT has rescheduled its April 4 national test date across the United States. The next scheduled test dates are June 13 and July 18.
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SAT: College Board has cancelled the June 6 SAT and SAT Subject Tests. If it is safe from a public health standpoint, they plan to provide weekend SAT administrations every month through the end of 2020, beginning in August. This includes a new SAT administration in September (date TBD) and the previously scheduled tests on August 29, October 3, November 7, and December 5.
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To prepare for the possibility that future tests get cancelled, both the ACT and SAT are working to develop a digital, remote testing option to be taken at home.
Because of all of the uncertainty, particularly for current high school juniors, the class of 2021, many colleges have changed their policies to “test-optional”. Some colleges have made this change indefinitely; others have committed to it for a period of time such as two to three years; others have announced this change exclusively for the class of 2021.
Here is an updated list of which colleges and universities have gone test-optional as of 4/19/20:
SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOU?
Here are some of the most common questions and answers relating to testing:
I AM A JUNIOR AND I HAVE ALREADY TAKEN MY SATS/ACTS. SHOULD I SUBMIT THEM EVEN IF MY COLLEGES HAVE GONE TEST-OPTIONAL?
Even though many highly competitive colleges have gone test-optional, most have not gone “test-blind.” Whether to submit your scores is a personal and family decision, likely based on several factors. But, in general terms, if you have scores that are around or above the 50th percentile of scores for the school you are applying to, it makes sense to submit them. If, based on your practice, you believe that you will be able to achieve the upper end of the score spectrum for your school, it is probably still worth putting in the time and working hard to achieve those scores. Conversely, if your current scores or the scores that you think that you can achieve are below the 50th percentile mark, then the new test-optional trend works in your favor. You do not need to submit your scores and this is your opportunity to focus on the rest of your application and other ways to shine.
Test-optional does not make a college easier to get into and some of the most competitive schools in the country were test-optional long before the COVID-19 crisis. Bowdoin College was the first test-optional college in the country, starting in 1969, and for the Class of 2023, had a median ACT of 33 and an 8.9% acceptance rate. Similarly, when the University of Chicago went test-optional for the first time for the Class of 2023, their reported test scores were the highest they had ever seen with a middle 50% SAT range between 1490-1560, and their acceptance rate was their lowest ever at 6.2%.
I AM A SOPHOMORE, AND WITH SO MANY ELITE COLLEGES GOING TEST-OPTIONAL, DOES IT STILL MAKE SENSE TO PREPARE FOR THE ACT/SAT?
As discussed above, just because a school goes test-optional, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be thrilled to see great test scores. If you think you will be able to showcase your strengths and earn scores in the upper 50th percentile, then, by all means, put the work in to prepare, perform well, and submit your scores. Even test-optional schools submit their scores to US News and World Report and other ranking reports, and like all colleges, they are eager to attract, admit, and enroll students with high test scores.
IF THE ACT/SAT ENDS UP BEING A REMOTE TEST, HOW WILL THAT WORK AND HOW CAN THE TESTING COMPANIES BE SURE THAT STUDENTS CANNOT CHEAT?
Like so much during this uncertain time, no one knows. But both ACT and College Board have indicated that any remote alternative would test what a student has learned in school just as the traditional tests do. So the best way to prepare is the same way that you would prepare for a traditional ACT/SAT, using previously administered SATs and ACTs to practice. It is still unclear how secure online testing can be accomplished, but in an April 15 New York Times article, College Board President, Jeremy Singer, described “plans for a remote proctoring system that locks down everything else in the computer.
The camera can detect any movement in the room. If the parents are in there, next to them, that would be detected.” Even if this could work, there is the question of privacy and whether families would be comfortable giving the testing company access to their devices.
WILL SCHOOLS THAT HAVE IMPLEMENTED A TEST-OPTIONAL POLICY RETURN TO REQUIRING THE SAT OR ACT ONCE THE COVID-19 CRISIS IS OVER?
Most schools that have gone test-optional in the past two months have done this in response to the pandemic, not as a philosophical policy change. However, test-optional has become an increasing trend in recent years and one that is likely to continue. We are already seeing that colleges are making this announcement and implementing the policy with different timelines. Highly competitive schools like Tufts University and Middlebury College have both announced a test-optional policy for the next three years, beginning with the Class of 2021. Several colleges, from selective liberal arts schools like Williams and Amherst to the prestigious University of California system, have announced the policy exclusively for the Class of 2021. Only time will tell if they make the policy longer-term or permanent. Butler University has announced the switch to test optional for the future.
WITHOUT SCORES, WILL OTHER PARTS OF MY APPLICATION MATTER MORE?
As has always been the case, students who choose not to submit scores to a test-optional school, should assume that the other components of their application will be weighed more heavily. This is an opportunity for students to really showcase their strengths and highlight their interests.
The bottom line:
For now at least, testing in the time of COVID-19 is not altogether different than in better times. While students now have more freedom, flexibility, and choice in testing, those students who take the tests and perform well will have more options. As you and your family cope with all of the challenges of the current Coronavirus crisis, testing may be the last thing you want to think or worry about, and you are not alone. The most important thing right now is health and safety, and colleges understand that well.
For guidance with your testing strategy or support with any part of your college application process, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.