Despite the majority of colleges going test optional this year, demand to take the SAT and ACT remains high. Many students are convinced that their chances of admissions will be better if they have good scores (regardless of what the colleges say). Many financial aid programs still require test scores. And some colleges -- especially the public universities in Florida -- still require the tests for admission.
As the College Board and ACT have resumed testing this fall, students have complained that it is difficult if not impossible to register for certain tests and that testing center cancellations have been widespread.
And that was before the current surges in the pandemic, which is now growing in most states, as the United States has hit more than 13.3 million cases and more than 265,000 deaths, according to The New York Times.
With the increased number of cases comes an increase in high schools that have either closed or do not want visitors on a Saturday (this coming Saturday is a test date for the SAT, and next Saturday is the test date for the ACT).
In California, 181 testing centers for the SAT are completely closed. A note next to the test center name says only, "This test center is closed. All registrations will be canceled and refunded."
In New York, 94 testing centers are closed. In Pennsylvania, 53 are closed. In Massachusetts, 51 are closed. In Texas, 62 are closed. In Florida, 26. In Washington State, 43. In Illinois, the figure is 37.
People take the SAT and the ACT all over the country. But the SAT is the better known (and more often taken) exam for most students in the Northeast and the West, and the ACT is better known in the Midwest and the South. So there are more ACT testing centers in the Midwest and the South and more SAT testing centers in the Northeast.
Already, with the next ACT on Dec. 12, ACT testing centers have also announced they are closing. More than 50 have shut down in California, 19 in Iowa, six in Indiana, 40 in Michigan and more than 60 in Minnesota.
The testing companies urge test takers to check the lists just before they take the tests because many of the cancellations are at the last minute.
ACT said, "Unfortunately, it’s clear the COVID-19 pandemic will be with us into the fall. This means continued limitations in test center capacity and inevitable cancellations throughout the remainder of our 2020-2021 test dates. Decisions to close test centers are made by test center staff, following [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and local public health guidelines to ensure your safety."
A spokeswoman for the College Board said via email, "As schools continue to navigate uncertainties due to the coronavirus, the top priorities for the College Board are the health and safety of students and educators. Local schools and test centers make individual decisions about whether to administer the SAT. They must adhere to local public health guidelines and follow the College Board’s requirements. Many schools and test centers will have reduced capacity because of social distancing guidelines, and they may encounter unexpected closures. While the College Board cannot directly control test center capacity and availability, we are working to ensure as many students as possible are able to test safely."
She added, "This is a unique year. There are more important things than tests right now. Colleges and universities understand that due to COVID there are limited opportunities for students to take the SAT. Most aren't requiring test scores for the upcoming admissions cycle, and they’re extending deadlines and/or accepting scores after deadlines pass for students who choose to submit them."