A New World of Testing

In a time of constant change, what can we expect from the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and A.P. tests in 2020/21?

The testing season is almost upon us. Well, sort of. Normally, testing ramps up in the spring, but this year, of course, things are a little different. Because juniors last year were not able to take the SAT due to COVID-19, makeup SAT tests will take place in the fall. Juniors this year will also have the opportunity to take the PSAT/NMSQT test that they missed in the spring. Meanwhile, even though the SAT, ACT, and A.P. tests are still scheduled for the spring, there have been changes to each of the tests in light of the current pandemic.

Makeup SAT and PSAT/NMSQT:

This October, seniors will have a chance to take their makeup SAT. And likewise, juniors will be able to take the PSAT/NMSQT test. Both of these tests will be administered the week of October 26th, with the seniors’ SAT makeup test on Tuesday, the 27th, and the juniors’ PSAT on Thursday, the 29th. 

These two days will be asynchronous remote learning days for the three grades not testing, and each cohort will attend in-person learning –assuming that the district decides not to move students to full remote learning– for only one day that week: Wednesday for Red Cohort and Friday for Silver Cohort. On those in-person learning days, students will go to all eight periods, so each class will be shortened.

Makeup SAT and PSAT/NMSQT testing days for EHS fall in the same week. (Eaglecrest High School website)

Seniors can choose not to take the makeup SAT on the 27th, particularly considering that many colleges have decided to make it optional for students to report test scores on their applications this year. And as of now, SAT tests will also be available to take on later dates, although those tests would not be available in school. 

Juniors’ PSAT/NMSQT, meanwhile, gives students a chance to practice for the SAT later in the year while also serving as the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program. With a good score, students can qualify for the program and become Commended Students –recognized by the program for their academic promise, which can be helpful for college transcripts and scholarship applications in the future– or Semifinalists –students who have the opportunity to become Finalists and potentially earn scholarships through the program. If a student cannot take this test on October 29th, College Board is now offering a second test date, on January 26, 2021. For those interested in any of these tests, however, COVID-19 safety regulations may still be a concern. 

“To make it easier for schools to meet health guidelines and requirements, College Board is offering flexibility with administration dates and has adapted policies and procedures to support schools in administering SAT® School Day, PSAT/NMSQT®, or PSAT™ 8/9,” according to the College Board SAT site. So, while for now it seems that testing will occur mostly as usual, masks and social distancing –like what we adhere to in in-person learning days– will also be required. 

The College Board site also notes, “If you no longer feel safe taking the SAT or you don’t feel well on test day, please stay home.” They added that students will receive a full refund and can transfer their test registration to another day if they have to miss test day.

SAT and ACT for Juniors: 

SAT practice books available at Barnes and Noble Bookstore. (Simone Beauchamp)

The SAT and ACT –taken by current juniors– are, at the moment, scheduled to take place as usual in the spring. Because of the constant changing of school and district regulations, there is not currently a set date for the SAT test for juniors at EHS. However, College Board has allowed for four different weekday testing dates in March and April of 2020, as well as multiple weekend testing dates from March to June. 

Likewise, there are multiple National ACT testing dates available from now until July 2021, and students can register for those through the ACT website. There will be a district-offered ACT test as usual, administered at the school unless requirements change, but as of now, there is not a set date for it. 

“We’re working to accommodate the demand for testing and better serve you throughout the process,” reads the ACT website. “Unfortunately, we have to acknowledge that seat and site capacity is subject to change, due to the changing nature of COVID-19.” Like so many other things right now, test dates are uncertain, but there are many people and organizations working to support the testing process and adapt to the pandemic.

This is the same situation for freshmen taking the PSAT 8/9 and sophomores taking the PSAT 10; there are not currently concrete dates set up for students to take the district-offered test, but for now, they are scheduled to occur in the spring. However, changes in regulations on the national, state, or district level may also change how and when these tests are administered. More information should hopefully be available by the second semester.

A.P. Testing:

College Board advertises the benefits of A.P. Classroom for the 2020-21 School Year. (College Board A.P. website)

For anyone taking Advanced Placement tests last year, the exams were wildly different: online, open-note, and much, much shorter. This year, College Board is hoping to bring A.P. testing mostly back to normal. As of right now, the tests are planned to be in-person, occurring from May 3 to May 14 as usual. Masks and social distancing will likely be required though.

“The AP Program will support in-school testing in 2021 because administering exams in schools maximizes access and opportunity. If safety concerns still prohibit any students from testing at a school, we will provide a contingency testing option that contains full course content,” said College Board on their website. They acknowledge the unique uncertainties that this school year brings, and so although they are attempting a return to relative normalcy with A.P. tests, they have also made some changes. 

If a student decides not to test or to cancel their exam(s), there will not be a fee for this like there has been in the past. College Board is also offering practice materials and videos through A.P. Classroom in order to better aid students and teachers in navigating remote and hybrid learning with A.P. classes. The A.P. test schedule and other resources are available on the College Board A.P. website. 

The New Reality

One thing hasn’t changed: testing can be overwhelming. Stress often comes hand in hand with tests, particularly this year with the nearly constant changes to school and testing and life in general. One thing we can do, however, is inform and prepare ourselves. Use your friends, your teachers, and your resources to your advantage. 

To better prepare for these tests, you can visit the College Board website, where there are practice SAT and PSAT tests available, as well as practices and lessons for all A.P. classes. SAT, ACT, and A.P. test prep books are also available at bookstores online and in-person and through Amazon. For more information on the tests in general, you can visit the College Board’s SAT site and PSAT/NMSQT site or the ACT website. 

We may not know for sure when or where or even how exactly testing will work this year, but we can do our best to be ready and be flexible.