COVID-19 Brings Uncertainty to Future of Standardized Testing


Paige Hosbein, Media Editor

In years past, spring has been standardized testing season for many Romans. However, as the COVID-19 situation permeates nearly every aspect of life, it has also drastically transformed the testing landscape; both the May 2nd SAT and traditional in-person AP exams were cancelled, and the April 4th ACT was postponed to June 13.

On March 20th, the College Board announced that AP exams will be shortened to 45 minutes, covering only units learned thus far. On April 3rd, they released more information to AP students and teachers, indicating that there will be one universal test date in May and a makeup option in June. Testing accommodations will also be honored, according to David, a College Board customer service representative, but those details have yet to be released. Students will be able to take the exams on any device online or have the option to take a photo of handwritten work. 

Taking exams at home undoubtedly begs the question: what is the College Board doing to prevent cheating? How can they discourage students from looking at notes, googling, or texting their friends during the exam? As of now, the College Board’s only preventive measures include utilizing plagiarism detection software and eliminating multiple choice questions from all tests. With the countless distractions being at home brings, sophomore Charlie Cohen adds, “I’m worried that it will be hard to have the same focused 45 minutes at home that I would get at school.” 

So far, the shift to online learning appears to lower students’ incentive to study as well, illustrated by St. Ignatius students who have had school this whole time. St. Ignatius junior Lolo Tiemann brings up an interesting point: “it has become harder to form teacher-student relationships virtually, making it difficult for teachers to write strong recommendations.”

Also at St. Ignatius, senior Derek Dingens notes, “The distance between my professors and fellow classmates when learning through Zoom, FaceTime, or chat platforms has made it virtually impossible to stay motivated to learn.”

To cope, Mercersburg Academy sophomore Gordy Simon says, “Teachers have adjusted by giving more group work and assignments that require more creativity. Because we’re so used to seeing each other all the time at boarding school it’s definitely been a weird adjustment.” 

COVID-19 has hit Chicago Public Schools particularly hard. “This whole year has been a double whammy for CPS kids. Not only have we missed school due to COVID-19, but we’ve missed school because of the two-week long CPS teacher strike,” says Walter Payton College Prep senior Sam Brody. “CPS starts school a lot later than most public schools in Illinois, so we’re already behind on content to begin with. Therefore, COVID-19 on top of the strike has Payton students frantically trying to absorb content. At Payton, teachers have started to refrain from going over topics that are unlikely to show up on AP exams and have focused more on core concepts. However, we aren’t starting online school until April 13th.”

Some argue colleges should be test-optional for the Class of 2021 given the extenuating circumstances. Junior Eli Aronson says, “I know for a while, schools have been debating towards moving to test-optional and COVID-19 might encourage those schools who were leaning towards shifting to test optional to follow through with it.” 

Junior Olivia Syftestdad highlights, “The cancellation [of the April ACT] prompted a lot of anxiety because so many of us had planned on taking it then, but will now be forced to continue prepping through the summer and maybe even the fall.” However, she says, “Even considering the circumstances, I don’t believe colleges should be test optional. My peers and I have put so much time and effort into studying for these exams, and it would be very discouraging to see all that hard work and money wasted.” 

The College Board claims that colleges support this solution and “are committed to ensuring that AP students receive the credit they have worked this year to earn.” With that being said, in a letter from Latin’s college counseling team, counselors note, “It is important to highlight that Latin does not have a requirement that students in AP courses sit for the AP exam.” They reminded juniors: “For everyone who is sitting for these tests in order to build a college admission testing profile, please understand that colleges are currently reworking/revisioning their use of standardized testing in general, in light of the current pandemic and test cancellations this spring. While it is true that strong AP scores are long thought to bolster a student’s profile, all colleges understand that this year presents new circumstances across the country and globe, not just at Latin.”

While students may be anxious about these changes, standardized test scores aren’t everything. “The rigor of your program, your engagement and desire for challenge, and the ability to meet those situations with agility, resilience and curiosity are measured in large part through many touchpoints in the admissions process—not simply through an AP score,” the Latin College Counseling team writes. “Latin does not tie its curriculum to AP courses, and colleges across the nation know this.”