SAT & ACT In Flux

Like Bart Simpson above, college applicants typically are nervous about taking tests, yet with the lingering pandemic, their anxieties may be more complex.

Both the ACT and The College Board added testing opportunities, beyond the usual test schedule, to compensate for cancelled Spring 2020 tests. Between July and December 2020, the ACT will be offered nine (9) different dates and the SAT will be offered on five (5) dates. Thus, high school seniors will have 14 opportunities to fulfill the testing requirements for those colleges where the tests are still necessary for applications. 

Yet, with a continued growth of confirmed COVID cases, high school seniors may not be guaranteed to (re)take either of the SAT or ACT this Fall, if test sites, which are typically school campuses, are closed. As shown on the map below, the numbers of daily cases are currently increasing all over the U.S., as shelter-in-place orders are relaxed or lifted. And, as of today, June 24, 2020, Texas and Florida are reversing their reopening plans. 

NPR, June 24, 2020

If COVID infection rates remain steady or increase, public health officials may once again mandate shelter-in-place restrictions, precipitating the closure or intermittent closure of schools, which we discussed in COVID-19 Impacts Fall 2020 Academics, likely cancelling SAT and ACT administrations. However, if government officials prioritize economic concerns and do not reimplement shelter-in-place orders thus shuttering school campuses, students may need to make a difficult choice between risking their health and the lives of their loved ones to take the tests or possibly compromise their college admissions plans.

Additionally, test proctors, typically counselors and teachers, will also confront a quandary—administer the test, potentially endangering the health of hundreds of students and staff, creating a liability risk, or close the test centers, potentially impairing hundreds of students college admissions plans.

The ACT and The College Board (SAT) testing models depend on school systems, private or public, to provide the classrooms where students can take the exams. Yet, will school district administrators allow the tests to be administered given the growing health risks and if so, what is their liability risk if someone involved with the test gets sick or god forbid, dies? 

Given 227 universities implemented a test-optional policy for, at least, the Fall 2021 application cycle just this past Spring 2020, suspending an 85 year old college admissions requirement, perhaps university administrators are indicating a lack of confidence in The College Board and ACT to deliver such an ambitious Fall 2020 testing schedule. Thus, can The College Board and the ACT be sure college admissions officers will simply reinstate testing requirements for Fall 2022 admissions (which is a tricky proposition as we discussed in Test Optional Confusion back in April), and all will return to “normal” after the pandemic passes? 

Jill Yoshikawa EdM, a University of California San Diego and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She can be contacted at