by Krishna Bambawale
For those of you planning to apply to the US for university, standardized testing might be a familiar struggle. For most, this is simply a timed enterprise. We study, we write, we retest, we forget. Suddenly, however, this reality has been drastically altered at the hand of a global pandemic we have come to know as COVID-19. Just a few weeks ago, I remembered joking with several friends that it was that time again. Time to reignite a passion for the mundane, and gruellingly participate in a series of section after section, and test after test. Two weeks out from the March 14th date, and amidst the cluster of schoolwork, we knew it was time to allot time daily to work through 1-2 sections. From my standardized test-taking experience while at UCC, I’ve come to realize that the SAT, and ACT alike, are pretty special. They do more than arbitrarily determine one’s academic intellect; they unite us.
On March 13th, at approximately 6 pm, what once seemed out of reach, came to be. The March 14th SAT was cancelled. Weeks of mental preparation were rendered worthless, and seeds of panic were planted among those who didn’t have a score they desired. Promptly, like most, I Signed up for the May 2nd SAT, only for that to be cancelled. Now what?
In the past few weeks, dozens of schools in the US, including top academic and athletic institutions, have stated that testing will be optional, not considered or generally flexible for the leaving Class of 2021. While there is obvious ambiguity to these blanket statements, one thing is for certain, no longer will standardized testing be at the forefront of any admissions decisions, if they once ever were.
As of April 15th, the College Board announced that the June testing date has also been cancelled and that if students are unable to attend testing centers in the Fall, they will be administering a digital test. Specifically, they pledged to ensure that at-home SAT testing “is simple; secure and fair; accessible to all; and valid for use in college admissions.” As you might expect, this has incited a variety of reactions. Most notably, are the questions surrounding the prospect of these digital tests. How will they work? How do you prevent cheating? Will universities even consider these? Is this a new precedent? As a student who is very much involved in the current standardized testing process, I will admit that in the middle of a global health crisis, the lack of answers only heightens frustration and concern. However, we must consider that it is unfair to expect answers so instantaneously amidst a rapidly developing crisis.
Some Journalists from well-known US publications go as far as to tempt the College Board and ACT to use this as an opportunity to do away with standardized testing moving forward, and with just reason. For many, these academic indicators are considered to be distinct sources of stress and travesties of one’s capabilities. While it appears unlikely that the SAT and ACT will be waived altogether, it is fair to say that as schools already venture away from an emphasis on standardized testing, the Class of 2021 is going to have an application experience truly unique to themselves.
For those who saw standardized testing as a barrier to apply to US universities, I implore you to now reevaluate. Here is an opportunity for you to be considered for yourself and your experiences, rather than an array of select standardized test scores. And for those who were planning on writing their tests at this time, I feel for you. Stay patient, trust the process and rest assured, all will work out.
As we continue to do our thing during these trying times, anticipate widespread updates, both from individual universities and from the College Board or ACT. Your questions, like mine, will be answered soon.
For future SAT communications: https://pages.collegeboard.org/sat-covid-19-updates?SFMC_cid=EM299998-&rid=125070048
For future ACT communications:
For list of US schools with optional testing policies (for international students):