Matt’s Past SAT/ACT News Update:

Matt O'Connor

Apr 13, 2018

Administrators at George Washington University have asserted that test-optional applicants are on par academically with other students.


Students who applied to GW without submitting standardized test scores are performing about equally as well as those who didn’t take advantage of the test-optional policy, according to new University data.

In a March presentation to the Faculty Senate, Provost Forrest Maltzman introduced new data showing that students admitted for fall 2016 who did not submit SAT or ACT scores – the first admissions cycle under the new policy – had about the same first-year GPA average as those who submitted scores. The data shows that, despite initial expert and faculty fears, students who applied test-optional are on par academically with other students.

Officials found that it’s not more difficult to predict how students will perform in their first year even without standardized test scores. Administrators said this finding reaffirmed the University’s decision to follow a national trend and shift to a test-optional admissions policy in 2015.

James S. Murphy writes that the expensive and time-consuming SAT essay should be abandoned by the state of California, which might result in the end of the essay entirely.


Every year more than a million students pay an extra fee to do the optional essay section of the SAT and ACT, though according to a Princeton Review analysis only 27 colleges and universities in the country require submission of an essay score. Half of those 27 schools are in California, which means the Golden State is well-positioned to put an end to what is a huge waste of time and money for millions of high school students and their parents each year. In March, Harvard announced that it will no longer require the SAT essay; Dartmouth did the same thing Monday. Now the University of California and Stanford should kill off these tests once and for all.

...1.2 million students in the Class of 2017 dutifully wrote at least one SAT essay, and about 1.1 million did the ACT essay. The essay takers made up 70% of those who sat for the SAT, and 53% of those who took the ACT. We surmise that the numbers are so high because too many students are unsure whether the colleges they apply to will want it. They take it just in case.

It's a costly "just in case," especially in aggregate.

The California Legislature is considering AB 1951, which would require the state superintendent to select the SAT or ACT as a replacement for PARCC tests that are now administered to all high school juniors (PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). Because so many 11th graders need and want to take the SAT or the ACT (or both) for their college applications, eliminating the PARCC assessment would streamline the testing regimen for schools and ease students' test-anxiety levels as well. But the choice should be between the SAT or the ACT without the essay test.

The New York Times recently published an article focused on the recent initiation of computer-based testing for the SAT and ACT, a practice that may expand dramatically over the next few years: For the ACT and the SAT, Pencils No Longer Required, but Sometimes Necessary.


...ACT Inc., ...began digital testing in 2015 and will move all its international testing online this fall — a year later than planned. ACT offers the digital option to all 16 states and 1,100 districts that contract with it, said Edward Colby, a spokesman. But just 8 percent of roughly one million school-day tests given last year were digital.

ACT’s archrival, the College Board, are offering digital versions of the school-day SAT in Oklahoma and Ohio this month. Altogether, about 100 schools will take either the SAT or Preliminary SAT exams online, said Zach Goldberg, a spokesman. But it, too, has had stumbles and resistance.

Digital testing offers the potential for lower cost, instant results and more accurate scoring. Eliminating test booklets and answer sheets provides greater security from test theft, a serious concern after major cheating scandals in the United States and abroad

The Common Core academic standards, released in 2010 and accepted by most states, called for state accountability tests to be administered online.

Test administration poses its own challenges. In South Carolina last year, the first statewide mandatory online ACT exam was marred by technical difficulties, forcing some schools to administer makeup tests and delaying some score reports. Mr. Colby blamed a nationwide outage beyond ACT’s control, but Ryan Brown, an Education Department spokesman, said the state encouraged districts to seek waivers for paper tests this year, and many did.

“Frankly, we don’t trust ACT’s capacity to test an entire state online,” he said.

At least one test coach, ArborBridge, is urging its clients to avoid online tests if they have the option, saying too little is known about the testing setup and interface.

No one wants to be a guinea pig,” said Megan Stubbendeck, ArborBridge’s senior director of instruction.

The NYT article was accompanied by an informational feature titled, "Here’s What You Need to Know About Online Testing for the ACT and SAT".

[Excerpts, including comments on test security and reliability]:

ACT’s test administrator, Pearson Assessment, uses proctor caching: Each testing location has its own local server, which downloads the test, delivers it to individual students and collects the answers before returning them to Pearson’s home server. Once the tests are returned, they disappear from local computers.

The SAT’s administrator, AIR Assessment, uses a proprietary browser with built-in redundancies, including a diagnostic tool that helps schools assess the health of their network and how many testers it can support at one time. Responses are saved on multiple servers, so if the connection is disrupted students can log on elsewhere and pick up where they left off.

Where can I test drive an online test?

For the ACT, visit the TestNav website, Students also may access timed and untimed ACTs to become comfortable with the testing, using Preparing for the ACT Test Taken Online. For the SAT, the College Board recommends Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy, Students also are given practice questions on the actual AIR test platform ahead of test day.

Amazon's well-publicized process of selecting a site for its "second headquarters" apparently includes asking cities for their high schoolers' SAT scores.

Due to California's "truth in testing law" (which mandates that 50% of the test forms given in the state be released publicly each year) the debut of the July administration of the ACT in 2018 will not include test centers in California. This article from ArborBridge has more details. It was already known that the July ACT would not be administered in New York State, due to its "truth in testing" law, which mandates the release of 2/3 of all tests administered annually.