SAT’s in the Time of a Pandemic

SATs in the Time of a Pandemic

The burdensome weight of junior year stress unmistakably condenses into the studying and preparation of one potentially life-altering test: the SAT. When one test can determine your entire life’s course, it is difficult to overcome the pressure of achieving your desired score. This description may be daunting to underclassmen who are just familiarizing themselves with what the SAT actually entails. Fortunately, students can put some of their worries at ease: the SAT is not unlike any other standardized test that has been administered in school districts throughout New Jersey, including Wayne Valley. 

The Princeton Review describes the structure of the SAT as, “…a multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper- test created and administered by the College Board.” And while the SAT was once a firm requirement for admissions to colleges and universities, given the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer and fewer undergraduate programs are requiring students to submit their scores. Because the majority of schools went virtual in 2020, many students lacked the usual SAT test-prep resources with which they would normally be provided. In addition, students who did schedule their SATs faced frequent cancellations due to local surges in COVID cases. 

Many colleges and universities adjusted to this adversity by not only allowing students who were directly affected by the pandemic to apply test-optional, but by dismissing the requirement of submitting standardized test scores, such as the SAT and ACT, for the foreseeable future. This has stimulated the question: how valuable really are test scores? And how fair are they? 

Depending on the individual student and their circumstances, many have had different experiences with learning during COVID-19. COVID-19 is known to have caused emotional distress for the vast majority of people: whether from experiencing the death of a loved one, financial concerns, or simply the stress of adjusting to unfamiliar circumstances. This has inhibited students from reaching their full potentials in school. Asking students to actively recall information learned during this time, many educators and students argue, seems not only unreasonable but unfair. The pandemic has only exacerbated the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students, making it difficult for colleges to differentiate between quantifiable intelligence and “edges.”

So, how fair is the SAT? To put it simply, not very, if at all. This argument has been disputed for decades; however, given recent test-optional policies, it has been brought to the attention of a larger audience. In addition to the disadvantages presented by the pandemic, every year, some students have privilege over others to afford to tutor. Although there are many free programs online, such as the Princeton Review, nothing compares to the expensive experience of having a real one-on-one tutor. Therefore, students who can pay for a tutor have an “edge” over students who do not. This financial inequity was compounded by the pandemic, as many parents have lost their jobs, making these upcoming testing years even more difficult relative to previous years. Overall, the pandemic has called our attention to an important reality: SAT scores more commonly reveal the difference in a student’s access to resources, rather than the difference in a student’s skills.