I’d like to start this article by offering my sincere condolences to the class of 2020 on the loss of your senior year.
I’d like to continue by wishing the absolute best of luck to my fellow members of the class of 2021. I believe we have our work cut out for us in the near future.
No one really knows when life will return to “normal”, and until then we all have to adjust to whatever is thrown our way. Right now, that means finishing off the school year online, social distancing, making fairly significant changes to our lifestyles. In just a little bit, however, that may also mean taking the SAT and ACT, two tests that often feel like they determine a high school student’s future, online.
On Wednesday, April 15, the College Board announced that they will be developing online versions of the SAT and ACT for use if students cannot physically return to school in the fall. There are both upsides and downsides to this plan of action.
The biggest upside is that an online SAT/ACT would ensure that the tests are still available to be taken. As of right now, most sophomores and many juniors, myself included, have never taken a legitimate SAT or ACT to be counted on college admissions. With the College Board canceling all tests this spring, options become very limited for times for us to take those tests. An online SAT/ACT would give students the opportunity to take at least one test.
Another positive of an online SAT/ACT is that it takes some pressure off of school districts and state governments. If there was no alternative option for taking the SAT/ACT, and students still needed to take it, administrations would feel pressured to return students to school earlier than possibly wise. But with the option of an online SAT/ACT, schooling can continue to be from home and isolated, if isolation is still necessary in the fall.
However, there are some significant downsides to providing an online SAT/ACT, the first of which is the immediate question of fairness. How would it be possible to ensure that there is no cheating, that students are using only their own resources and not parents or friends or anything else to take the test? The College Board has come up with a plan for that, but it seems like a slight invasion of privacy. Their plan would be to gain access to the camera and microphone on a students testing device, and monitor the student while they test. This feels a bit sketchy to me, and I honestly don’t think I trust the College Board with access to my computer.
That leads to another issue with an online SAT/ACT, not every student who needs to test has the technology necessary for testing. Many households, let alone students, in America don’t have a computer. The College Board is also trying to help with this potential problem by reaching out to many families across the country and learning about the help they need. This is all well and good, but it’s probably not feasible for every student in the country to eventually have access to the technology they need to take the SAT or ACT online.
At the moment, an online SAT/ACT is a very interesting option. For a lot of students, it would be a great opportunity to take a step towards completing college applications. For others who don’t have the technology available, it would just show the inequality of the system that has been provided. Personally, I don’t know whether it is a good idea or not. I know that I want and need to take the SAT, and if this is the only way to do so, then that’s what I’ll do. But until we know that this is the very last option, I’ll hold out hope that we can go back to school in the fall and take the SAT there.