Registered for the SAT, Unable to Take the Test

Of 402,000 who registered to take SATs in August, 178,600 are blocked from taking the test because testing centers are closed or limited in capacity.

August 24, 2020

Of the 402,000 students registered to take the SAT and SAT Subject Tests on Aug. 29, 178,600 will be unable to take the test for which they signed up because so many testing centers have closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Forty-six percent of testing centers have closed, according to the College Board, which administers the SAT and other standardized tests. Of 54 percent of testing centers that are open, some have reduced capacity, the College Board announced.

“We know this is a challenging time for students who want to take the SAT. We are working with local communities to help ensure as many students who want to test have the opportunity to do so, safely, during next week’s SAT administration and those that follow each month this year,” said Priscilla Rodriguez, the College Board's vice president of college readiness assessments. “Our top priorities are the health and safety of students and educators, and we are working with test centers that need to close or need to reduce their available seats because of new safety measures. We are notifying students as quickly as possible about test center closures and capacity reductions to reduce uncertainty before test day.”

The College Board is requiring test centers to follow local public health guidelines as well as College Board health-related policies. At all weekend test centers, students taking the SAT and center staff must wear a mask or protective face covering for the duration of the test, and students must be seated at least six feet apart. Additionally, students must confirm a series of health and safety statements (including that they don’t have symptoms of COVID-19 and that they are not violating any travel or quarantine requirements) before entering the test center or testing room.

A spokesman for the College Board confirmed that those rules do not apply to tests administered at schools. With school testing, the College Board requires that the school's safety rules be followed.

ACT requires its employees to wear face masks during the exam, but only requests that test takers do so. Last month, two students with COVID-19 took the ACT in Oklahoma. They were asymptomatic when they took the test.

While most colleges have gone test optional for the next year, and fewer people are signing up to take the SAT or the ACT, many scholarship requirements have not been changed, and demand to take the SAT and ACT has outpaced capacity.

On July 20, about 1,400 students showed up to take the ACT and found that their testing centers had closed without providing any prior notice.

Robert Schaeffer, interim executive director of FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, and a longtime critic of the College Board, said via email, "The College Board does deserve credit for the transparency of this announcement, for publishing hard data about test registrations/cancellations (while recognizing that the numbers will change), and for requiring everyone at test sites to wear masks. ACT needs to follow suit."

But he also said, "Ten days before the first SAT administration in more than five months, the test's sponsor is admitting that 45 percent of all registrations for the Aug. 29 SAT have already been canceled. Many more SAT centers will decide not to open over the week and a half. That demonstrates the futility of trying to administer large-scale, in-person standardized exams during a pandemic that has already taken 170,000-plus lives."

This week, the National Association for College Admission Counseling issued a report highly critical of the testing industry, suggesting that colleges carefully consider whether they need testing.

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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