The Future of the SAT and ACT Threatened by the Pandemic

by Jay Joseph ‘22

The pandemic forced the College Board to cancel all SAT Spring test dates. Starting August, the College Board will provide an SAT and SAT Subject test date every month through 2020. Two SAT School Day tests are available on September 23 and October 24 for those who are eligible. Testing centers may face smaller seating capacities and unexpected closures in these coming months. The College Board advises that students stay updated regarding seat availability though the ‘Select Your Test Center’ page on their website.

With the progression of coronavirus, the College Board is looking into an online alternative for the SAT test. Earlier, the College Board president Jeremy Singer advocated for a remote proctoring system that locked down all other applications on a computer with monitoring of the camera and microphone. The plan was criticised for being invasive and, with the backlash from AP testing, the College Board suspended its plans to create an online test. Its website simply says that one is in the works now.

As a result, the College Board asked colleges to extend deadlines, accept scores after deadlines, and not to penalize students without scores. In contrast, the ACT continues to expound that their scores provide “meaningful insight and significant value above and beyond other factors used in the college admission process.” 

The test-optional movement gained much traction this past year due to studies showing direct correlation between higher test scores and increased family income, disparities over scores by race, and the Blue Varsity scandal. Now, the pandemic is strengthening the strain on these institutions. Over 50 colleges, including major and selective ones, have suspended/phased out SAT requirements for an extended period of time. An additional 45 colleges have suspended the requirement solely for the Class of 2021. Among the 45 colleges are Harvard, Cornell, Northeastern, and all public colleges in Oregon. Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania no longer require SAT Subject tests. 

Davidson, Rhodes and Williams, top national liberal arts colleges in the world, have a three-year program to test whether the standardized-testing requirement is needed. Multiple other colleges are reviewing the requirement.

The University of California Board of Regents launched the Napolitano Plan to promote equity at their universities. The UC system will phase out SAT and ACT requirements. Incoming freshmen in 2021 and 2022 will have a test-optional policy. In 2023-2024, admissions will be test-blind. In 2025, the UC system will employ a test of their own or maintain the test-blind policy. 

Admission experts expect more colleges to suspend requirements. If the Napolitano Plan succeeds, far more colleges will phase out SAT and ACT testing. The College Board and ACT are fighting for their livelihoods in the college admissions process now.