The Standardized Testing Holding Pattern

Ongoing Uncertainty with Standardized Testing

The calendar page has turned on a new year bringing new hope and new resolve, but also an acknowledgment that we are still dealing with problems both introduced and exposed in the last calendar year.  COVID-19 is still raging across the United States and a combination of colder weather, quarantine and social distance cheating during the holiday season, and a small but vocal group of those who deny reality, has instigated an exponential increase in contagion despite the introduction of a vaccine in the last month.

While the vaccine is cause for celebration, even in the best case scenario it will take months for enough of the population to receive the vaccination to allow us to return to life as we once knew it.  This means that throughout the spectrum of activities, organizations, communities, and opportunities that make up modern society, most of us are stuck in a holding pattern until enough of us are vaccinated.

This is especially true in the realm of standardized testing.  The spread of COVID-19 disrupted the testing processes of countless students in the spring of 2020 as both the College Board, maker of the SAT, and ACT Inc. cancelled test dates.  Even when both non-profits chose to attempt to hold testings beginning in the summer, they were forced by local restrictions, lockdowns, and outbreaks to cancel individual test sites.  As much as fifty percent of students who registered for the SAT or ACT from July through December 2020 had their local testings cancelled due to test site closures despite the claims of the test-makers that those test dates had indeed occurred.

The spring test dates – March, May, & June for the SAT and February, April, & June for the ACT – are typically the most important test dates of the year as millions of high school juniors take these tests for the first time.  As such, hundreds of thousands of high school students found themselves unable to take the SAT or ACT at all in 2020, many of whom were ultimately prevented from submitting scores to colleges as part of their application process.


How To Prepare:

There are things, however, that students can do to make sure that they are as prepared for their upcoming personal college application process as possible, despite the ongoing uncertainty in the new year.

  • Get an early start. As mentioned, many students wait until the latter half of their junior year to attempt the SAT or ACT for the first time. Start the process earlier.  In fact, we recommend making your first attempt at the SAT or ACT during the summer before junior year.  Not only does this afford students more test dates from which to choose, but also spreads out the process, hopefully reducing the stress usually associated with standardized testing.
  • Explore test optional colleges. While some colleges have always been test optional – meaning that a student can choose whether or not to submit test scores as part of a completed application for that school – a handful of colleges have gone test optional, either temporarily or permanently, due to the COVID crisis.  Other colleges still require the submission of test scores.  Know what you need to submit.
  • Ask for help. Whether you reach out to the guidance/college counseling department at your high school, introduce yourself to the admissions department at a local college, or explore private tutoring and counseling options with Livius or a similar private provider, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A trained expert can help you navigate the confusing labyrinth of test dates, preparation, the college application process, and financial aid and scholarship applications.

While we are stuck in a holding pattern until the majority of Americans are vaccinated, we can all use this time to plan for future when we can all go out, gather together, and successfully accomplish the tasks that help us achieve our goals and dreams.