Many of my students worked hard to prep for the March SAT and April ACT only to have their plans turned upside down when the tests were canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s only gotten worse since then, with the May and June tests canceled as well. For high school juniors and seniors, all of the uncertainty of the COVID era has added to the already stressful experience of applying to colleges. Unfortunately, there are still more questions than answers. I wrote the FAQ below to provide as many answers as possible. I will try to add updates to it as I learn more. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have additional questions or updated information.
If I was registered for the SAT or ACT in March, April, or May that was canceled, will I get a refund?
As far as I can tell, the answer is yes for the SAT and no for the ACT. The College Board is offering refunds to students whose SATs were canceled and early registration opportunities for the August, September, and October test dates.
According to ACT.org: The safety of students and test center staff is ACT’s top priority. ACT has rescheduled its April 4 national test date to June 13 across the U.S. in response to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. All students registered for the April 4 test received an email from ACT informing them of the postponement and instructions for free rescheduling to June 13 or a future national test date.
Should I register for the June 6 SAT or June 13 ACT?
The SAT planned for June 6 has been canceled, so don’t register for that. The ACT on June 13 hasn’t been canceled… yet. You can register for it if you like, but make sure to have a contingency plan.
What if the June tests are canceled?
The June SAT has already been canceled, and the June ACT will likely follow suit. The next ACT test dates are July 18 and September 12, and I do recommend that you register for one or both. The next SAT date is August 19. Plans are in the works to add a September SAT this year. The College Board has published a webpage that you can use to stay informed as to their developing plans.
Is it true that the SAT will be offered online?
The College Board is working on a process to give the AP exams as online, at-home tests this May. This should be a learning experience for the College Board. In the unlikely event that schools are still closed in the fall, they may be able to adapt the process for at-home AP exams and use it for the SAT. There are still more questions than answers, but they are working on it.
Is it true that the ACT is offered online and that I can take it one section at a time?
The ACT is planning on rolling out some significant changes in September of 2020. First, it will encourage colleges and universities to look at the superscore (or the average highest score in each of the four sections, even if they were taken on different days). Currently, about 49% of colleges superscore the SAT, but only 34% superscore the ACT. The ACT can’t make any colleges change their policies, but they hope the new reporting will encourage more colleges to superscore. Not to mention, superscoring is necessary to consider the results of single section re-takes.
Second, there will be opportunities to take the ACT on a computer rather than as a paper and pencil test. These computer-based tests will still be offered only on the National Test Days, which are scheduled seven times a year, and only at specific testing centers. Will your school become one of these testing centers? We don’t know yet – that list will be released in July. The biggest benefit to taking the ACT on a computer seems to be that your results will come in faster, perhaps as fast as 2 days after you take the test. Also, the single section retakes can only be taken in this format. Some locations do offer computerized testing on weekdays in addition to the seven National Test Days, but that isn’t intended for all national locations until September 2021.
Third, as I’ve alluded to, students who have already taken the full ACT at least once and who are willing to take the test on a computer can register to retake only specific sections of the test. In other words, if you did great on English and Math but bombed Reading and Science, you should be able to re-take the Reading and Science sections without having to sit through English and Math again. You can retake sections as many times as you like, but only on National Test Days and only if you are able to take the test at an approved center. Furthermore, colleges that choose not to accept ACT superscores may not be able to utilize single section retakes in their decision-making processes.
How is the college application process going to be changed?
According to the New York Times, about two dozen colleges have waived the SAT or ACT requirement for the 2021 application cycle. There are also colleges that have waived the testing requirement for three years. Other schools are keeping the test requirements but moving deadlines to give high school seniors more chances to take the tests, including the October, November, and December 2020 administrations.
As is typical for the US college admissions process, the response to COVID is chaotic, decentralized, and unstandardized. On the one hand, this can make it frustrating to find the information you need since the answers will vary drastically from college to college. On the other hand, it is refreshing to know that the college application process is as individual as we are, and each high school graduate can find a unique path. If you are a high school junior or senior, the best thing to do is visit the admissions page of each school you’re interested in. If you can’t find the answer you need, don’t hesitate to send a quick email (from the student, not the parent!) to an admissions officer.
School is closed and I have a lot of free time right now. Should I be using it to study for these tests?
Yes! Absolutely! Ambitious high school students tend to apply to between eight and twelve different colleges. If you have a list of favorite colleges of about this size, the chance that at least one of them will require the SAT or ACT is significant. Of course the situation is changing by the day, but preparing for the tests now will keep your skills sharp and give you a greater sense of control during this chaotic time. Laura Hubbard recommends in this article that students dedicate at least 10 minutes a day to SAT math and complete one reading or English passage daily. She reminds students that consistency is the key to successful test prep because “people overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a year.” If you need more convincing, check out this article where I list 10 benefits of test prep that go beyond your SAT and ACT scores.
Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360.com