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  • Writer's pictureChris Tamis

So, what's the deal with the SAT and ACT?

Updated: Apr 30, 2020


While no one can predict the ultimate outcome for sure, the future of standardized testing in the college admissions process will certainly transition into something very different than what we have been used to. Cancellation of test dates, admissions deadlines and social distancing concerns will make administration of the SAT, ACT and Subject Tests problematic. Both testing agencies (The CollegeBoard and the ACT) along with college admissions offices are in the process of adopting new policies and guidelines that will not only affect the class of 2021, but most likely all future college applicants as we move forward.

So what can you do now as a high school underclassman dealing with this uncertainty?

  • College admissions offices are busy trying to find ways to address the lack of available testing for current high school juniors (and sophomores). The cancellation announcement for the June 6th SAT and the postponement of the April 4th ACT throws another monkey wrench into application planning for students. To counter what is shaping up to be a lack of submittable test results for many students, colleges are increasingly waiving the requirement for standardized testing as part of their applications. While the vast majority of schools are doing this specifically for the graduating high school class of 2021, it appears that this concept may carry through to future years as well. An important caveat is that while colleges claim there will be no disadvantage to not submitting scores, more emphasis will be placed on your high school academics for admissions consideration. In addition, all other parts of your application (extracurriculars, awards, activities, personal statement, demonstrated interest, disciplinary action) will be weighted more heavily than in the past. That being said, for those students who did take a previous standardized test and scored well (in relation to each schools statistical breakdown), colleges will still accept scores you choose to submit.

  • SAT exams administered through the CollegeBoard have been adapting their dates and format to assist students adversely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. With the cancellation of the June test date, the CollegeBoard has announced that beginning in August, they will be offering test dates once a month. Registration for these new exams will begin in May, although students who were registered for the June SAT or have never taken the SAT, will receive early access to the August, September and October exams. The good news for students is that you will have at least 5 test dates before regular decision deadlines and up to 3 test dates for early applications. Even if a schools states submission is not required or optional, including a high standardized test score (based comparatively to each schools statistical data range) will certainly help your admissions chances.

  • PSAT spring dates for 10th grade students have been cancelled and will not be rescheduled.

  • Subject tests have traditionally been utilized by a very small sub-set of the applicant pool (highly selective schools, pre-professional programs, engineering). They are very difficult exams designed to demonstrate expertise in specific subject areas (physical sciences, mathematics, language, history). Due to the COVID-19 crisis, many schools that previously required or recommended inclusion of subject test scores have altered their policies and are now no longer requesting them (Yale and MIT have even stated they will NOT accept them). For the class of 2021, worrying about fitting in a subject test at this point should not be a concern, as clearly attempting another SAT or ACT takes precedence .

  • ACT exams are also being adjusted to assist students impacted by the crisis. The next scheduled exam is June 13th, followed by July 18th (both subject to postponement). All students registered for previous and current exams will be given the ability to re-register without a fee for a future exam. If you need to take the ACT, register now for the June 13th date. Even if it is postponed, you will be the first to have the ability to reschedule. Additionally, the ACT is planning a major format change including online testing (you will receive your scores in 2 days!) and grading upgrades (super-scoring) in September (ACT September changes). The good news is, like the SAT, juniors will have several more chances to take the ACT before application deadlines. To reiterate, even if schools state they do not require ACT or SAT submission, submitting a good score will certainly make your application stand out from the crowd.

  • AP exams have transitioned to an online format and will be administered between May 11th and May 22nd (see Exam schedule). Each exam will only cover topics and skills covered in class up until early March. These exams will be open book/open note. Information on accessing your individual AP exams will be available in late April. Score release is set for the usual July time frame and will be scored using the standard 1-5 range. The CollegeBoard has released a webinar which explains the changes in detail and can be viewed by clicking the above link. Colleges plan to continue to award credit as they have in the past for scores in the 4-5 range (occasionally for a 3).

  • International Baccalaureate (IB) exams scheduled for this May have been cancelled. If a student was scheduled to complete an IB class and take the exam, the student will be awarded either the diploma, career-related Program certificate or a course certificate which reflects their standard of work. The achievement will be based around the students’ coursework and the established assessment expertise, rigor and quality control already built into the programs. (IB press release)

  • New York State has cancelled all regents exams that were scheduled to be administered in June 2020. Individual school districts who utilized regents grades to calculate a class final average will consider alternate criteria. Of important note is that the actual type of diploma (regents, advanced distinction) and the academic distinctions (honors or mastery) granted upon graduation never entered into the admissions equation since they were awarded well after application submission deadlines. How the absence of regents grades will impact each student is very complex and answers can be found by viewing the following document from the NYS Education Department (NYS Regents).

My advice, stay ahead of the curve on this topic. Register for what you can and keep up to date on all updates so you can reserve either a physical or online spot when they become available. You will have several more opportunities to take both the SAT and ACT before your fall application deadlines. Taking a standardized test and scoring well is still going to benefit an application package. Just because schools are "waiving" the requirement does not mean you should not send in a score if it boosts your application. Admissions will remain competitive, so you need to do everything you can to make yourself stand out from the pack!

Visit Expedition Admissions for more information . . .

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