The college admissions and test prep landscape became more uncertain this week with significant changes for the SAT, ACT, and SSAT.

Status of the SAT

The College Board canceled the SAT schedule for June 6, kept the August date in place, and added a September date. That means the SAT will be administered every month from August through December, including existing dates in the fall and early winter. Students can begin registering for the new dates in May.

“In the unlikely event that schools do not reopen this fall, College Board will provide a digital SAT for home use, like how we’re delivering digital exams to 3 million AP students this spring,” the College Board said. “As we’re doing with at-home Advanced Placement exams, we would ensure that at-home SAT testing is simple, secure and fair, accessible to all, and valid for use in college admissions.”

“Like the paper test, a digital, remote version of the SAT would measure what students are learning in school and what they need to know to be successful in college,” the College Board added.

Status of the ACT

The ACT is taking a different approach by offering students a flexible summer test schedule with additional dates, as well as providing an option to take the test online at home in the fall and winter.

“Our mission compels us to provide as many opportunities as possible for students to take the ACT test, particularly now as other admission information, such as grades, courses, and GPAs, may be missing or partial,” Marten Roorda, the ACT CEO, said in an online announcement. “The insights provided by ACT scores are more important to students and institutions than ever during this critical time, when colleges are forced to make decisions in such a disruptive climate.”

The new flexible scheduled for June and July gives students the ability to reschedule without a fee by switching from June 13 to June 20, July 18 to July 25, or from the June to the July national test date.

“In addition to three previously planned fall/winter 2020 national test dates in September, October and December, ACT will also offer a remote proctoring option for the ACT test, allowing students to take the test at their home on a computer,” the online announcement said.

Are Colleges Really Going Test Optional?

Test date changes and cancelations have apparently added momentum for some colleges and universities to go test optional.

“The number of colleges going test optional continues to grow and to include institutions with well-respected academics. This week alone, Swarthmore College, Tulane University and Virginia Tech announced one- or two-year experiments with test optional” Inside Higher Ed reported in an April 16 story.

Like Marten Roorda of ACT, who said colleges “are making temporarily test optional adjustments to admission requirements,” Bulldog Tutors believes it’s more important than ever that students seeking admissions to selective colleges and universities be able to distinguish themselves with top scores on admissions tests.

Status of the SSAT

The SSAT, the admissions test taken by students seeking admission to independent and private high schools, is also making changes.

The Enrollment Management Association will begin at-home administration of the SSAT this fall.

“We believe this new mode of testing will alleviate the pressures on families still looking to fulfill application requirements and yet concerned about group testing at one of EMA’s member schools given continued worries about proximity of people before a COVID vaccine is available,” EMA Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer Heather Hoerle said.

Limited administrations of the SSAT at home will be available by mid-May. The test will have the same content, and length as the traditional SSAT, the EMA said.

The Bottom Line for Students

“The changes to test dates and administration methods create a new level of uncertainty for students attempting to navigate a college admissions process that has already experienced significant disruption, and also for middle school students hoping to be accepted by top private and independent schools,” said Mike Newcomer, founder of Bulldog Tutors.

“While the changes are necessary and generally positive for students, they also signal the added importance of seeking expert, professional guidance to approach the test prep and admissions process in a way that will ensure success,” he added. “For example, prepping to take the SAT, ACT or SSAT online at home will be significantly different than prepping to take these tests in the traditional setting.”

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