The State of Standardized Testing in College Admissions
To Our Families and Colleagues,
As the weather warms, and we get glimpses of the country beginning to “open,” my impatience for the old normal is palpable. I’m sure many of you feel the same, including those juniors whose school year and college process were disrupted by the pandemic. To myself and to the juniors, I say, “hang in there!”.
While there is still plenty of uncertainty, each week brings added clarity to the world of standardized testing and college admissions. By now, most colleges have signaled various philosophies and admission approaches that are empathetic and forward-looking. They understand that all juniors across the country and around the globe are being affected.
Yes, spring test dates have been canceled, but the schedule of summer and fall SAT and ACT dates feels firmer and more reliable. Now would be an excellent time to regroup and start fresh with a testing plan. You still have plenty of time and opportunity to test, even if you’re applying early.
Our 1-1 test preparation and practice tests continue online, and we’re busy meeting the demands of an online world. As testing agencies announce plans to offer online options for their tests, Summit is ready. We have developed a state-of-the-art online testing platform allowing students to take practice exams that will mirror the official, online testing experiences. Stay tuned for more information.
All of us at Summit are committed to being a trusted resource to you during these challenging times. I have provided a recap of the latest news on the tests for college admissions along with our thoughts on these topics, as well as the response from colleges. As you navigate this ever-shifting landscape, I encourage you to also check out our resource page and attend one of our frequent webinars.
Please do not hesitate to contact any of us at Summit with any questions. We are here to help.
UPCOMING TEST DATES
Along with the announcement that it was canceling the June SAT date nationwide, the College Board introduced a new fall test date: September 26. Starting in August, national SAT dates will be offered every month through December. The upcoming schedule of summer/fall SATs is as follows:
- August 29
- September 26 (SAT only. Subject Tests not offered.)
- October 3
- November 7
- December 5
We encourage you to register as soon as possible for any tests you intend to take. The cancellation of spring test dates means there is and will be significant pent-up demand for summer and fall testing.
The College Board says that registration for the upcoming tests will open in late May. Stay tuned for more specific information.
Students who either have yet to take an SAT or were registered for June will get early, priority registration access. Details on how this will work have not been released.
While the College Board canceled its June test date nationwide, ACT hasn’t done so for its June 13 date, making it more difficult for students to plan. ACT seems to be taking a “we’ll take what we can get” approach to June. They’re leaving it up to individual test sites to decide whether to cancel. Students registered for June might be bounced from one test site to another as sites cancel. In that case, you’ll receive a notice from ACT giving you the nearest available test center.
Do not count on the June ACT being widely available, if at all, in MA, CT, and NY. Schools are test sites, and schools in MA, NY, and CT are closed for the year. A school would have to reopen for the sole purpose of administering an ACT.
If you’re planning to take the July ACT, register now. Registration is open. We strongly suspect the July 18 ACT date will run, but capacity will be limited. There aren’t many test sites, and social distancing will be in place, reducing the number of slots even further. At this writing, there are only 4 test sites in Massachusetts, 7 in Connecticut, and 21 in New York. ACT summer/fall test dates are as follows:
- June 13 (make-up is June 20)
- July 18 (make-up is July 25)
- September 12
- October 24
- December 12
For any summer and fall test dates, expect social distancing and other safety and health precautions to be implemented at test centers.
The College Board and ACT will push School Day testing to offer students more opportunities to test. It’s unclear how many schools will want to take a day away from what is sure to be an already very busy fall. For states like Connecticut where the SAT is the state assessment test, spring School Days were canceled, and most states are looking to reschedule them to the fall.
Despite the cancellation of spring test dates, the schedule of summer and fall test dates provides plenty of runway for planning, preparation, and testing as needed. If you’re like most students and you haven’t yet tested, the summer and fall schedule gives you ample opportunity to test once or twice as needed. For those who plan to apply early, the July, August, September, and October test dates will allow students to submit test scores with early applications. From a results perspective, students should take comfort – data show that students score their best in the fall of senior year. Maturity matters.
If testing is still part of your plan, consider taking a practice test over the next few weeks. Whether you’re in the middle of your preparation or haven’t yet started, a practice test can serve as a useful benchmark, with the results and detailed score report serving as a guide for your planning and future preparation. Summit is offering practice tests with a virtual proctor every weekend, as well as some weekdays.
ACT SECTION RETESTING
Remember ACT Section Retesting? The ACT insists that it will deliver Section Retesting starting with the September 12 test date. In case you’ve forgotten, Section Retesting gives students who have already taken a complete ACT the ability to take individual sections instead of the whole test. For a refresher, check out: https://mytutor.com/act-exam-changes-september-2020/
We have yet to find a school that is willing and able to administer ACT section retesting. Since it’s available as an online offering only, schools don’t want to take on the additional IT effort and resources. As a student, you’ll see if and where it’s available when you register. Don’t expect much.
You won’t save much money by taking individual sections. To take an ACT (without Writing) costs $52 (it increases to $55 starting with the September date). To do a single section through ACT’s section retesting costs: $44. Two sections are $48, and three sections are $52.
In light of spring test dates being canceled, many colleges have decided to adopt a temporary test-optional policy for applicants from the high school class of 2021. Some have decided to implement longer trial periods of 2-3 years (e.g., Tufts). Here is a current list of schools that have adopted test-optional policies for the coming application season: https://mytutor.com/colleges-shifting-test-optional-covid-19/
Cornell is the first and only Ivy to go test-optional for this coming application cycle (so far). Their language is interesting and clearly communicates that this is a one-year trial only and that they would strongly prefer test scores. It’s worth a read as they try hard to “thread the needle:”
To support students and help themselves, colleges are extending deadlines. Over 400 colleges have moved the May 1 decision day deadline back to June 1 for this cycle. Some schools have talked about pushing back early action and early decision application deadlines for the upcoming cycle, but no school has officially announced anything at this point.
In the absence of second-semester grades, colleges will need data to evaluate whether applicants can do the work at their schools. Assuming schools open in September, it is safe to assume that senior fall grades will be more important than ever to an application. Test scores – AP, SAT, and ACT – will also show that students are college-ready.
The vast majority of colleges have decided to maintain their existing AP exam policies, whether that means granting credit or simply viewing the scores in the same way they always have. While the language varies from college to college, George Washington University’s message is pretty typical:
“We understand that it is stressful when students have worked so hard taking these rigorous classes. We have kept our transfer credit policy in place, and we will honor the AP scores for all exams taken in spring 2020.”
While there has been considerable debate about the validity of the shortened, at-home exams, in the end, colleges understand that students have worked hard in their AP courses and deserve credit for that work. From a practical perspective, in the absence of second-semester grades, colleges will need whatever data they can get to evaluate college readiness.
A BRAVE NEW WORLD—ONLINE, AT-HOME TESTING
Online has become the new norm during this crisis. The pandemic is changing the way teaching, tutoring, test prep, and testing is being delivered.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Summit will be rolling out a state of the art, online practice test platform for the ACT, SAT, ISEE, and SSAT. Students will be able to take simulated exams in an online environment that will mirror the official online testing experiences for these exams.
As it is with so many businesses, the pandemic is negatively impacting testing companies. Without the ability to deliver paper tests in person to groups of students, companies like The College Board, ACT, ERB (ISEE), and EMA (SSAT) are at risk. Consequently, these companies are all fast-tracking online, at-home testing solutions:
The College Board is prepared to offer an online, at-home version of the SAT, but only in the case that schools do not open in the fall.CB suspended this plan in a June 2 announcement.
- ACT is fully committed to launching an online, at-home ACT option in late fall/early winter 2020.
- Beginning in mid-May, EMA plans to do a limited rollout of an online, at-home SSAT. Large scale administrations will begin in fall 2020.
- ERB announced that they will deliver an online, at-home, on-demand version of its ISEE exam this spring, meaning students can take the test whenever they want.
Each agency touts that its online tests will have the same validity, quality, and integrity as the paper versions. All use some form of remote proctoring, artificial intelligence, and data forensics.
At a minimum, all organizations seem to support extended time accommodations, but the support of other types of accommodations is unclear. On a related note, all of the agencies talk about equity, but none has really solved the different equity issues that inevitably arise from online, at-home testing.
ERB is the only organization that will offer an on-demand version. All others will offer the tests on specific administration dates.