The College Board has “paused” efforts to let students take the SAT at home, a plan it shared in April as an available option for students who want to take the college-admissions test but are unable to with many testing centers shuttered by the pandemic.
In an announcement posted Tuesday, the testmaker said that taking the SAT online at home “would require three hours of uninterrupted, video-quality internet for each student, which can’t be guaranteed for all.”
The College Board added that it will “continue to develop remote proctoring capabilities to make at-home SAT possible in the future,” and “continue to deliver the SAT online in some schools but will not introduce the stress that could result from extended at-home testing in an already disrupted admissions season.”
A different—and shorter—kind of high-stakes test administered online by the College Board has already caused stress. In May, students and parents reported issues submitting responses for the Advanced Placement exams, which were delivered online for the first time, in a 45-minute, free-response format.
The nonprofit has claimed that only 1 percent of the 4.6 million people who took the test were impacted. Still, the problems prompted students and parents to file a class-action lawsuit against the College Board, claiming, among other things, gross negligence and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The College Board still plans to administer in-person SAT tests every month, starting in August. But it noted that capacity for that month is quickly filling up, and that students in densely populated areas hardest hit by the pandemic, such as New York City and other metro areas, will encounter difficulty in finding availability to take the test. Seat capacity will be limited in accordance to social-distancing measures, and the organization also acknowledged that last-minute and unexpected closures cannot be ruled out.
Registration for the tests opened on May 28. The College Board noted that in some states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington State, more than half of available testing seats for August are already filled. Officials say they will consider holding a test in January if there is demand.
Due to the delay in the availability of testing and results, The College Board has asked colleges and universities to be flexible and “extend deadlines for receiving test scores and to equally consider students for admission who are unable to take the test due to COVID-19.”
The request comes at a time when a record number of colleges and universities have decided to forego using ACT and SAT scores as a prerequisite admission.
One of the biggest systems in the country backed out last week when the University of California voted to eliminate those testing requirements for California students by 2025.
Robert Schaeffer, the public education director of FairTest, a nonprofit organization that works to address flaws in standardized testing, told the Hechinger Report last fall that, should the UC System choose to go test-optional—as it has just done—it would be the “grand prize” in creating fairer college admissions processes.
The UC System is just the latest and most prominent example of a trend many colleges and universities seem to be following. According to FairTest’s tracking of four-year institutions’ ACT/SAT testing policies, more than 1,200 colleges and universities will be test-optional by the fall 2021 admissions cycle.
In the last year, especially, more higher-ed institutions have elected to de-emphasize standardized tests in their college admissions processes. And given the barriers to taking these exams under current social distancing guidelines and the COVID-19 pandemic, others may follow suit.