How Covid-19 Changed the SAT & ACT


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Students wear masks during testing which can contribute to already high test-anxiety.

Emma Fannin, Staff Reporter

Anyone who has completed all four years of high school will most likely say that their junior year was the hardest year. They surely aren’t wrong; we juniors have to take physics, trigonometry, European history, all of the hard classes that made our bones ache when we were freshmen. The cherry on top of junior year is the SAT and ACT, the huge tests that decide how academically rounded we are and how prepared we are for college. They really aren’t something anyone would look forward to. 

As a junior at Archmere, I have been preparing to take these standardized tests. I’ve taken many practice tests which were very hard and lengthy which required my brain to ceaselessly work for four hours. With these tests, as difficult as they are, the lovely new Covid-19 virus does not make them any more enjoyable.

I began taking practice tests in the fall of 2020. Archmere did a wonderful job with making sure the tests were Covid-safe, spreading everyone out and mandating masks. As I was taking the practice SAT and ACT, I felt no difference from how I took our required standardized tests in freshman year. The only difference was that our breaks were super short, only one or two students could go to the bathroom at a time, and everyone else had to stay seated. There is nothing that Archmere could have done to fix this as the bathrooms are very small and Covid spreads very easily. 

The main point that Covid has really beat down on is the preparation for the tests. When preparing for an SAT or ACT, some classes may offer practice problems to help prepare us students as best as they can. With Covid, though, many classes are very behind in trying to teach their content matter before the time of the SAT, and they don’t have time to give extra help during class time. This change is understandable for the fact that they have to plan their lectures around a virus, but these lessons have us completely forgetting about the SAT or ACT material, so when we take the practice test, we aren’t prepared. As we coped with this change, most of us have looked into hiring tutors. 

Many SAT and ACT tutors give all of the practice problems in the world to their students, which highly prepares them for the test. They even administer practice SATs or ACTs themselves, which drastically helps with the student’s confidence in their ability to take the test in the coming months. However, many tutors now have to meet online with their students. I have talked to many of my friends at Archmere about virtual learning and some absolutely despise it, for it is very unmotivating to stare at a screen and be surrounded by the distractions of their home. Therefore, the stress of the SAT and ACT themselves and constant struggling to maintain focus makes it very hard to have a virtual tutor. So, these virtual students are desperately trying to learn while panicking because they may be taking the test in less than three months. I am one of those students. 

Fortunately, these hardships have not gone unnoticed by universities. Many colleges have acknowledged that Covid-19 will affect SAT and ACT preparation. As a response, some of them have made the ACT and SAT optional for applications. Some of these universities include Brigham Young, Brown, Dartmouth, University of Delaware, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, and many more. This takes a significant amount of stress off of us juniors who need to take the SAT or ACT, and seniors who have applied to their colleges of choice. Even though some colleges are not requiring scores, we are still recommended to take the SAT or ACT, in case we apply to a non-test optional school, and the stress still lives. 

My classmates and I know that this year’s SATs and ACTs are not going to be easy, and we don’t even know if we are going to be fully prepared. We want to be able to focus and do well on the test because it has a part of our future in its hands, whether we apply to test-optional schools or not. Even though these tests may be more challenging than they would without Covid, we juniors have many resources to help us do well: tutors, teachers, the internet, and more. We shouldn’t worry too much about how Covid will affect the real tests, but we should still take extra precautions to be prepared. 

List of test-optional colleges; Prep Scholar