SSAT and ISEE Announce Remote Testing Options
In the midst of the COVID-19 testing shakeup, two of the largest independent school admissions tests will be going online. Both the SSAT and ISEE announced this month that they will be debuting at-home testing administrations for students.
The SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test), which is administered by the Enrollment Management Association, will be widely available as an electronic test this fall. The information was posted on the Enrollment Management Association’s website, not the SSAT’s registration page – possibly because they haven’t rolled out registration for the at-home test yet. There will be a limited-availability online testing option in mid-May for students whose SSAT registrations were cancelled due to COVID-19, but the Enrollment Management Association hasn’t publicly released details about the time and date of that May test. The SSAT at Home test will be remote, but not on-demand: students will test at home, on specific dates and times.
Before COVID, the SSAT did offer a more flexible option: Flex testing, which allowed families to schedule testing times outside the official scheduled dates. However, Flex testing has been put on hold since April, and the latest word from the Enrollment Management Association is that they don’t know when they’ll be bringing Flex testing back.
According to Enrollment Management Association Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Heather Hoerle, this new remote SSAT will be every bit as secure and reliable as the paper test. In an undated statement on the SSAT’s blog, she writes, “SSAT at Home will provide score reports with the same quality, integrity, and validity as our paper-based tests.” Hoerle notes that the SSAT has already been piloted as an online test: in 2017, it was administered electronically to students at Prometric testing facilities.
The ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam), which is administered by the Education Records Bureau, is also scheduled to go online this spring. The ISEE has been available electronically for some time, but not remotely. The remote ISEE will be an on-demand test administered remotely, but it’s not clear when the test will debut: the ERB closed registrations until further notice due to “unusually long wait times.” The ISEE online test will use ProProctor, a Prometric product, to proctor the test online. The online test will only be available to students testing in the US and Canada, and pricing will be comparable to the in-person test. According to ISEE’s website, scores will be released 48 hours after testing.
The idea of an at-home admissions test naturally brings up questions about test security and score validity. How can testing administrators know that students fill in their own answers? How can proctors ensure that students aren’t looking up word definitions or math formulas during the test? Neither test allows a calculator, so how will proctors make sure students aren’t using one? The questions only multiply when you consider the ISEE’s on-demand formula: if students all take the test at home, but at different times, how can you ensure security?
Both testing agencies plan to use a combination of live proctors, artificial intelligence, and data forensics to ensure that students are taking the test correctly and in good faith. For the SSAT, the proctors will check student identities and watch them as they test, while “the AI will flag any possibilities for cheating, including but not limited to opening additional browser windows and running other software.” It’s not clear what specific platform the SSAT plans to use, but they have a pre-existing relationship with Prometric, so it is possible they’ll use a Prometric product.
The ISEE’s website provided more detail as to how their online proctoring will work:
Before a student starts the test, a Prometric Readiness Agent will conduct a live scan of the room and desk area to confirm that it meets security requirements using the student’s computer webcam (or an external camera). The agent will also perform a webcam security inspection of the student’s pockets, sleeves, accessories, and glasses (where applicable). Once the inspection is completed, a certified Prometric proctor will use a webcam to monitor the student for the duration of the test.
Both testing agencies state that students with accommodations will be granted those accommodations on their at-home tests.
Once these remote tests are off the ground, they will provide an interesting case study for the College Board and ACT, Inc, who are currently revamping their testing formats and schedules in the wake of COVID-19.