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Breaking News: College Board encourages greater flexibility in testing requirements for the class of 2021

Testing agency asks admissions officers to take COVID-19 testing difficulties into consideration this year, reveals there will be no at-home SAT in 2020.

Today, the College Board published an appeal to its member colleges, asking them to show flexibility in their admissions policies for students affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. The College Board acknowledges that it will have challenges meeting all the demand for its tests, particularly in the August and September administrations. It will attempt to meet some of that demand through free school-day testing in the fall for the districts and states that participate in the School-day program. CB also announced that there would be a new January SAT administration in the event there is adequate demand. The easiest way to clear the backlog of students wanting to test would be to offer a remote testing option, but the announcement reveals that the College Board will not be administering an at-home SAT in 2020

The College Board had never officially announced that they would be releasing an at-home version of the SAT, and alluded to the fact that it was highly unlikely during this calendar year. In contrast, ACT, Inc has stated that at-home ACT testing will debut sometime in late fall or early winter of 2020, and it is likely that the College Board’s remarks on the subject are in response to their competing test’s plans. According to the statement, 

The College Board will pause on offering an at-home SAT this year because taking it would require three hours of uninterrupted, video-quality internet for each student, which can’t be guaranteed for all. The College Board will continue to develop remote proctoring capabilities to make at-home SAT possible in the future.

Because there won’t be a remote option for the SAT this year, the College Board is concerned that not all students may have consistent access to testing sites in the fall (even though the College Board is adding additional SAT dates in the fall and winter). College Board acknowledges that students “in the densely populated areas hardest hit by covid-19—such as Boston, Denver, and New York City—will face the greatest challenge in finding open seats because of scarce test centers.”

Given these concerns, the College Board is making three requests of colleges. First, it asks them to extend deadlines (both early and regular) to allow students to submit test scores later, potentially factoring in that January testing date. Second, it asks colleges to give students who can’t submit test scores due to COVID-19 the same opportunity for admissions (and offers to tell colleges that it will keep them updated about which areas students were unable to test in). Finally, the statement asks colleges to recognize that students may not be able to take the SAT multiple times this year, which means that superscoring and other test-to-test improvement won’t look the same this year. College Board CEO David Coleman says, 

In making these difficult decisions we focused on reducing the anxiety that students and families are experiencing this year. We therefore are asking our member colleges to be flexible toward students who can’t submit scores, who submit them later, or who did not have a chance to test more than once.

This statement is the first time a major testing agency has come out in support of testing flexibility from colleges, but it’s unclear what effect this will have; many colleges have already decided to adopt temporary test-optional or test-flexible policies due to the current testing environment, while others continue to insist upon established testing requirements. It is clear that more flexibility in many areas may be essential to admit the class of 2021. 

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