The SAT, that tool of college admission, has always been a communal experience – a few hundred students in a gym or lecture hall, each at their own desk, quietly scratching away at the standardized questions under the eyes of a team of proctors. But in light of the current state of the world, College Board, the not-for-profit company that owns and administers the test, is looking at making the SAT available for students to take at home.
“We know students and educators are worried about how the coronavirus may disrupt the college admissions process, and we want to do all we can to help alleviate that anxiety during this very demanding time,” said College Board CEO David Coleman on April 15, 2020, during a press call. “In the unfortunate and unlikely possibility that schools do not open this fall, the College Board will be ready to provide a digital SAT at home.”
“We would much rather see schools reopen,” Coleman added. “But we will be ready.”
The stringent proctoring of the lecture hall would be replaced by some manner of digital security, such as software that locks all other functions of the computer during the test, or using existing cameras and microphones to monitor a test-taker’s activities.
Advanced Placement (AP) exams, which are also administered by College Board, have already begun moving online, with over 3 million students expecting to take an AP exam this spring. With all schools in the U.S. currently closed, the alternative was to have an entire semester of college-level coursework wasted and potentially delay graduation or college admission for those millions.
Prior to school closures, many schools had planned to offer the SAT free during the school day, making it universally available to students. Those plans have, understandably, been canceled.
Some see this as a last-ditch measure by College Board to keep its test relevant. Dozens of colleges and universities had already dropped the SAT score as a consideration in their admissions processes, and more are doing so now in their response to the pandemic Even elite private and public colleges and universities like Williams College, Tufts University, Virginia Tech, and the University of California have temporarily waived SAT score requirements for admission.
“This virus hits students very differently depending on their circumstances,” Coleman said. “There has never been an event that I can recall that’s laid bare the division and inequalities in our society.”
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