The College Board and ACT have announced that at-home standardized testing may become an option this fall if schools don’t resume in-person classes.
This blog will discuss some of the issues that may arise through alternative testing options, as well as how the SAT and ACT can adopt social distancing measures given the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why At-Home Testing?
The SAT and ACT bring in large cash flow for their companies. Just last year, the College Board brought in one billion in revenue and an additional 94 million in profit. If these companies lose a year in revenue because of COVID-19, this would be very damaging. This motivated the College Board and the ACT to find a solution. At the same time, everyone around the world is motivated to keep society moving as best as we can given the pandemic.
David Coleman from the College Board did say recently at home testing may be necessary but it unlikely to be the solution they land on.
This statement reflects on the two main issues that come with at-home testing.
If tests are at home and multiple choice, all a student has to do is text their friends and share answers. Even if measures are taken to prevent cheating, such as surveillance, this brings up privacy issues. Parents may not be comfortable signing off on their child being monitored.
Wealthier students will have access to a better testing environment, complete with the best computer and a quiet place to take the exam.
Lower income students on the other hand may have trouble finding a quiet place to take the exam, and may not have a device or internet access to take the exam on.
What Should the College Board and ACT Do?
There’s no one perfect solution to the problem. If at-home testing becomes available, we recommend:
1. Multiple test forms be offered. Questions should be mixed up and sections should be randomly ordered to prevent collaboration.
2. Make up tests must be offered if technical difficulties come up.
Alternatives to At-Home Testing
As society begins to open up and practice social distancing measures, College Board and the ACT can take this into account if they choose to administer in-person testing again.
Instead of classroom testing, students can take the SAT or ACT in a bigger space such as a gymnasium, auditorium, or college lecture hall, with students spaced out 6 feet apart. In addition, tests can be placed on the desk once finished and left there for 24 hours to assure there are no germs left in the morning.
COVID-19 poses a greater risk to people over the age of 20 than under, so in-person testing can allow only high school aged student to take the exam. Some special permission can be granted to those above the age in certain cases. Parents can also be forbidden from entering the testing grounds, instead they must drop their child off outside.
Additionally, masks can be required at all times during the test. Testing can also be spaced out timing wise. Instead of one large sitting on a Saturday morning, SAT and ACT tests can be offered all weekend in multiple sittings. For example: one sitting in the morning and one in the afternoon.
The ACT already has a computerized version of their test given only to international students. This can be something the ACT uses for U.S students as well. Students can take the test in-person but online at different times. Each student would get a different form code and sit in a room with very few people. This would also allow for a standardized level of computers and internet access used.
This is a more expensive option but it is a great way to practice social distancing while taking a standardized exam.
What Will Colleges Think?
It’s unclear how colleges around the globe will respond to the new SAT and ACT testing measures. It is likely many schools will go testing optional for the foreseeable future.
The future is up in the air. We can only wait and see what happens. As information about COVID-19 becomes clearer, so will SAT and ACT options.