Students Thrown for a Loop


By Zilana Lee

The coronavirus pandemic has upended students’ education in every aspect, especially the college process. High school students preparing to take standardized exams including the SAT, ACT, and Advanced Placement tests had to put their plans on hold due to social distance requirements.

Back in early April, the College Board, a not-for-profit association of over 6,000 universities and colleges best known for its SAT, announced that Advanced Placement (AP) tests would be administered online for students to take at home. The AP exams are taken each May by students and are comprised of year-long material from AP courses. Greenwich High School offers various AP courses, including U.S. History and Language and Composition.

In an interview with Sal Khan, owner of Khan Academy, and David Coleman, College Board CEO, Coleman discussed the association’s plans for the AP exams amid the pandemic. “When we surveyed 18,000 students, over 91% of them said they wanted the opportunity to take an exam and claim the credit we’ve earned,” said Coleman. “Let’s remember, the crisis hit after 75% of the school year was done, so these are students who have been working all year in their AP classroom.”

The at-home AP exams were 45 minutes and students were allowed to have their notes during the exam. The exams covered only 75% of material covered in the school year due to early school closures. The College Board also launched “AP Live” to provide every student a free online review of AP course content scheduled each day. As of April 7, 2020, the content received 4.7 million views. Students were given the option to take practice online exams for free in order to familiarize themselves with the at-home format.

“For AP U.S. Government we had already finished the curriculum in the first semester, but for AP Comparative Government we were only about halfway through the curriculum. We had to learn the rest at home which was difficult because we didn’t have tests and so you did not really have to understand the information very deeply,” said Kate Van Duyne, a rising senior at Greenwich High School.

Despite the College Board’s efforts to provide online testing, the association received criticism from students who took its online AP exams. Students experienced technical glitches while trying to submit their answers and many students were unable to successfully do this, having no choice but to make-up the exam. Due to its technical shortcomings, the College Board is now straying away from administering the SAT admissions test online. In addition, the association urged universities and colleges to not punish applicants who do not submit scores or to extend the deadlines for students to submit SAT scores. In response, multiple schools including Harvard and Cornell are waiving standardized test requirements for 2021 applicants. The leaders of the University of California system even voted on May 21 to phase out the SAT and ACT as an admissions requirement over the next four years.

College Board will be administering the SAT in-person starting August 29, 2020. Due to social distancing measures and high demand of students registering for the exam, there is limited seating capacity for students in certain areas. Van Duyne’s scheduled SATs in May and June were cancelled due to the pandemic, and her tutoring ended at the start of quarantine. When the College Board opened SAT registration, Van Duyne noticed limited availability even with early sign-up. Because her scheduled SAT exams were cancelled, Van Duyne was given the opportunity to sign-up early, but even then, a limited number of testing centers were available. She is now registered to take the SAT in August at a testing center in Avon, CT, nearly a two-hour drive from Greenwich. The SAT is offered on the following dates in the fall of 2020: 8/29, 9/26, 10/3, 11/7, 12/5. You can find the 2021 testing dates at https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/dates-deadlines. On the day of the test, students will need to bring a calculator, No. 2 pencil, Admission ticket, and a photo ID.

The ACT exam is administered by ACT, a nonprofit organization of the same name. It is not affiliated with the College Board. The ACT is offering in-person exams to students beginning September 12, 2020. Registration opens on the last week of July. The ACT is offered on the following dates in the fall of 2020: 9/12, 9/13, 9/19, 10/10, 10/17, 10/24, 10/25, and 12/12. You can find the 2021 testing dates at https://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/registration.html. On the day of the test, students will need to bring a calculator, No. 2 pencil, a printed copy of their ticket, and a photo ID.

SAT and ACT testing centers will follow social distancing requirements recommended by the CDC. There will be Covid-19 related signage, including floor signage to maintain six feet distances at key locations such as check-in and seating arrangements. Although gloves and masks will not be provided, staff members are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), and students are encouraged to do so as well. Students will be asked to temporarily remove masks for inspection and full-face confirmation as part of test security protocols at check-in. In addition, testing staff and students are required to have health screenings and wellness checks on test day. Students will be asked several health and wellness questions during check-in, and if they reply “yes” to any of the questions they won’t be admitted. The student may reschedule their test at no cost. If a student does not feel well on the test day, they also have the option to reschedule at no cost.

It is important for students to keep their brains sharp and consistently stimulated over the summer to prevent the summer slide – when students struggle to retain skills and knowledge over summer break, resulting in learning loss by the start of school in the fall. Since the SAT and ACT were cancelled in May and June, and now available in the later months of the summer, students have to get back into study mode. Preparing for the SAT or ACT in advanced increases one’s likelihood of receiving a satisfactory score. For parents looking to help their child study for the college exam, there are multiple resources to choose from.

The College Board and Khan Academy are providing free resources online, including full-length SAT practice tests and personalized learning tools. Visit https://www.khanacademy.org/sat?utm_source=cbcta-osp&utm_medium=cb418-cb&utm_campaign=practice to access the free online resource. Amazon offers a myriad of SAT and ACT guidebooks with organized chapters on different test topics and full-length practice tests. Here are a few you can find on Amazon: The Princeton Review 10 Practice Tests for the SAT, The Official ACT Prep Guide 2020-2021, and The Princeton Review 1,511 ACT Practice Questions. While motivating your child to study for an exam is no easy task, reviewing a couple of SAT or ACT flashcards each day can help them improve in math and english. Barron’s is a well-known learning company that sells SAT and ACT flashcards. An alternate option is Quizlet, a free online study website and app that helps students study using flashcards, games, and quizzes. In addition, spending 15 minutes a day doing math problems may help students greatly by the time it is test day. Khan Academy is a free online learning resource with specialized lessons on everything from Algebra to grammar.

Each student has different needs and preferences when it comes to learning. For many students, more individualized one-on-one teaching is the most effective way to learn new concepts and test taking skills. ArborBridge is a private online tutoring company for multiple exams, including the SAT and ACT. Using a data-driven algorithm, tutors at ArborBridge can analyze their student’s performance and determine specific skills to work on. In addition, Princeton Review, Varsity Tutors, Carnegie Prep, and Study Point also offer in-person or online tutoring for the SAT or ACT.

Due to the changing nature of the pandemic, stay updated on possible changes to the SAT and ACT testing dates and locations at their websites.