Taking (and retaking) the SAT, ACT or both has been a tradition of junior and senior high school students for decades. Students taking these tests hope to get the best score possible and secure a spot at their first-choice school. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, SAT and ACT testing dates have been cancelled from March up through June, and state examinations have also been cancelled for this school year. In the wake of these cancellations, many top private institutions have announced that they will go “test-optional” and waive ACT and SAT requirements for current high school juniors and others looking to enter college in the fall of 2021.
As of last week, more than two dozen schools have gone test-optional. Among those schools are highly-selective private liberal arts colleges like Williams and Amherst, as well as competitive Boston-area schools like Tufts, Boston University and Vassar. Certain state schools, like those in California, Washington and Oregon, have also adopted test optional policies. Most schools intend to extend this offer only for students applying to enter school in the fall of 2021 or spring of 2022, but certain admissions departments have said that going test-optional has been an ongoing discussion for some time and that the coronavirus has made their choice easier.
Schools choosing to go test-optional now do so partly out of practicality: There is currently no way to take either test – and neither the College Board nor the ACT have announced online testing procedures. But part of this is an issue of equity. Organizations have been lobbying for the removal of standardized testing requirements from college applications for years, criticizing both the SAT and ACT for favoring wealthier students, who already have an advantage when applying for school. Colleges that have made their applications test-optional prior to the coronavirus outbreak have done so to give low-income and otherwise disadvantaged students a greater chance at acceptance.
Currently, the College Board is using the upcoming AP Exams as a trial run for online standardized testing, so it may be possible that the SAT and the ACT will be offered online come this fall. Even still, it’s likely that more and more colleges will go test-optional to compete with the schools that have already established the policy. And it’s possible that schools will see the benefits of removing standardized testing requirements and continue test-optional policies into further admittance cycles.
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