The SAT college entrance exam will be offered to all students online should schools and testing locations remain closed for the fall semester, the standardized testing company College Board announced Wednesday.
This year, 777,000 students who were scheduled to take the SAT were unable to because of school closures that began in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The College Board has also cancelled all in-person testing until August 29 or until students and staff can gather safely again, according to the organization.
“The simple reason is there are things more important than the test,” David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, said on a call with reporters Wednesday. “Our top priority is the health and well-being of students.”
Recognizing the important role the SAT plays in applying to college and for academic scholarships, Coleman said the College Board is taking steps to make sure the SAT is widely available to students regardless of economic or public health circumstances. More fall testing days have already been scheduled in preparation of schools reopening for the new school year, but should schools remain closed come the fall semester, Coleman said the College Board will be ready to deliver a digital SAT for students to take at home.
An online SAT, which has been tested in select schools and districts for the past five years, would require remote proctoring “at a scale not yet seen,” Coleman said. So while the idea of testing at home is new, an SAT digital administration is not, he said.
“If this was four years ago, we would not make this commitment because the technology was not there,” Jeremy Singer, College Board president, said on the call. With the improvements the College Board has made to online SAT delivery over the past five years, Singer said he is confident the exam will be able to be delivered online and at scale.
Advanced Placement exams, which will be administered by College Board to 3 million students at home in May, will also help give the organization a clearer picture of what it is like to administer online testing on a large scale.
The issue of accessibility — ensuring students with disabilities needs’ are met — is also being taken into consideration as the College Board considers moving testing online. The company has already invested more than $1 million to provide families with short-term access to broadband internet, mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and devices. But Coleman said the organization plans to double down on these efforts to address the digital divide and connect students with online resources if the SAT moves online.
“You can expect us to build on these efforts and make sure every student has what they need,” he said.
Although College Board offered assurance the online version of the SAT would be comparable to the in-person version, the organization is also urging college admissions teams to look at students’ scores within the context of the current crisis.
“It is incumbent on admissions officers and all of us to pay attention to the very demanding contexts some students will be living in this fall,” Coleman said.
Some colleges, including the University of Washington, Gonzaga University and the University of California system have already announced they will forgo the standardized testing requirements for fall 2021 freshman applicants.