Cornell University is the first Ivy League university to become ACT or SAT exam test-optional, joining an ever-growing list of US schools that are dropping the requirement for fall 2021 admissions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier in April, the College Board – the not-for-profit organisation that gives the SAT – and ACT announced the cancellation of all immediately upcoming administrations of the SAT and ACT standardised exams, which are required components of the majority of US college applications.

The College Board said its top priorities are the health and safety of students and educators.

“Public health officials have made clear it currently is not safe to gather students in one place, and many states have closed school for the rest of the academic year. As such, the College Board will not be able to administer the SAT as planned on June 6,” said the College Board in a statement.

However, the organisation said it will ensure students have opportunities to take the SAT to make up for the lost administrations, “giving them opportunities to show their strengths and continue on the path to college”.

“We know students and educators are worried about how the coronavirus may disrupt the college admissions process, and we want to do all we can to help alleviate that anxiety during this very demanding time,” said College Board CEO, David Coleman.

“Our first principle with the SAT and all our work must be to keep families and students safe. The second principle is to make the SAT as widely available as possible for students who wish to test, regardless of the economic or public health circumstances.”

The College Board added that in “the unlikely event that schools do not reopen this fall”, it will provide a digital SAT for home use, much as the organisation is delivering digital exams for three million Advanced Placement students this spring.

ACT said it will also offer a remote proctoring option, allowing students to test at home on a computer, and that it would launch the test-at-home option in late fall/early winter 2020 as part of its national testing program.

The exam cancellations prompted a large number of institutions to suspend the test requirements or make it optional, including Pepperdine University in California, which announced it is test-optional for undergraduate international students and US students studying outside of the country for the 2021-2022 academic year.

“Given the widespread cancellation of standardised test-taking opportunities around the world this spring and uncertainty about future test dates, Pepperdine University will allow prospective undergraduate international students to apply with or without standardised test results,” it stated on its website.

The university statement explained that though formerly required, standardised exams were reviewed in their context and “not deemed equivalent to a student’s academic performance in their own education system”. However, students that have already taken the exams and feel they enhance their application are “welcome to submit self-reported scores for admissions consideration”.

“The rigour of the curriculum and performance is already the most critical component of the academic review, and many education systems have equivalent exams, such as AP and IB, GCE Advanced Levels, French Baccalauréat, Indian Higher Secondary School Certificate, etc.,” the statement continued, adding that proof of English proficiency will still be required from all international applicants.

More recently, the University of Richmond in Virginia announced it would also be providing a test-optional admission path for first-year students entering in 2021, while Cornell University stated that students seeking to enrol and beginning in August 2021 can submit their applications without including the results from ACT or SAT exams.

However, Cornell added it is not adopting a “test-optional admission” policy permanently, and that applicants with no test results might more often be asked for additional evidence of continuing preparation.

It also stated that it is currently unable to analyse proposals from ACT and the College Board for offering expanded at-home and other online testing during 2020.

“While we affirm each of the test-makers’ qualifications, research, and intentions, this method of testing can’t yet be validated as an indicator of college success during the upcoming cycle,” it wrote.

“Also, though we again credit the efforts the agencies will undertake, it seems likely that differences in access to technology and timing will mean some students will have less chance to succeed through these online testing opportunities than others.”

Meanwhile, student-run nonprofit Student Voice is urging more schools to adopt test-optional application policies for fall 2021 with its #TestOptionalNOW campaign.

Source: THE PIE NEWS

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