4/21/20: This Week in COVID-19 and the ACT/SAT

The past week has seen the continued evolution and intensification of the coronavirus pandemic, and I want to start by saying to everyone reading that I hope you and yours are staying safe and healthy. The COVID-19 crisis has affected our lives in countless ways, and while standardized testing isn’t many people’s top priority at the moment, it’s nonetheless an important concern for many juniors and seniors at this time of the year. This post will focus specifically on the SAT and ACT, which were recently bumped down a spot on the list of “Americans’ Most Hated Acronyms” – I’ll let you guess what displaced them. Here are the three most important recent developments (or non-developments) regarding COVID-19, the SAT, and the ACT:

1. The June 6th SAT test date has been cancelled. Last week, College Board announced a blanket cancellation of the 6/6 SAT and subject test administrations; in place of the June test, CB has said that they will offer a new test date in September, public safety permitting.

If the rest of the 2020 SAT testing calendar proceeds as currently planned, this would mean that the SAT will be offered every month from August through December, with subject tests offered on most if not all of those dates as well.

2. The June 13th ACT test date has not. At the time of writing, the ACT’s stance was that the June 13th and July 18th test administrations would proceed as planned, “as CDC and local guidelines for safety allow.” In fact, the ACT has even gone as far as to add make-up test dates on June 20th and July 25th in the event that “a test center is not able to open on the national test date.”

Needless to say, this is… somewhat surprising in light of both College Board’s recent decision and the larger context of the continuing pandemic. The language on ACT.org suggests that the ACT may be relying on local authorities to make their own decisions as to whether the test will be administered, perhaps hoping that it may be able to go ahead as scheduled in areas less affected by the virus. This is something that bears close monitoring in the weeks to come, in terms of both large-scale announcements coming directly from the ACT and local-government pronouncements that affect specific regions.

3. Both College Board and the ACT have committed to developing and rolling out an at-home testing option later this year. For CB, this is dependent on how the COVID situation progresses – their site states that they will provide “a digital SAT for home use” in “the unlikely event that schools do not reopen this fall.”

The ACT, on the other hand, appears to be going all-in on remote testing regardless. From their website:

“In addition to three previously planned fall/winter 2020 national test dates in September, October and December, ACT will also offer a remote proctoring option for the ACT test, allowing students to take the test at their home on a computer. ACT will launch the test-at-home option in late fall/early winter 2020 as part of its national testing program.”

There are a significant number of hurdles that must be cleared, both technological and logistical, before at-home testing can be offered on a large scale in any form, let alone in a way that is equitable and cheat-proof. The fact that the ACT in particular has committed to a specific timetable, however, suggests that they feel confident in the progress they’ve made thus far. This makes a bit more sense in light of the fact that the ACT was already planning to offer online testing starting in September 2020 – it’s very possible that they started laying the groundwork for at-home testing before anyone had even heard of coronavirus.

That’s what we’ve got for you today on COVID-19, the SAT, and the ACT. Be well, stay safe, and hang in there.

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