High school students weigh pros and cons of taking college entrance exams online

Take-home tests are not a new concept but what about your college-bound child potentially taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Testing (ACT) in their pajamas from their own laptop?

It’s a possibility if schools remain closed as the world continues to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Officials with the non-profit organization, College Board made the announcement Wednesday after canceling June testing.

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Instead of a paper-and-pencil test given under proctors' supervision, the home version would be digital and rely on “remote proctoring.” That could include using the computer’s camera and microphone to monitor movement or talking.

Nevertheless, the prospect of at-home standardized testing has many people thinking, it could be a recipe for cheating and scores that would be skewed.
Some high school juniors in Loudoun and Montogmery counties told FOX 5 Thursday that while the College Board is planning for the worst when it comes to college entrance exams, they are not quite sure how taking the test online would actually work.

“It’s the SATs you know?” said Ziyad Hassan, a junior at Broadrun High school in Ashburn. “People buy books and go to tutoring sessions and buy courses that cost hundreds and thousands of dollars, so the integrity of it could be damaged.”

Some students like Layna Teitelbaum, a junior at Northwood High School in Silver Spring have already taken the exam but said that if she had to do it again, she would feel comfortable taking it online, however, she’s not sure if some of her peers would have the same advantage. 

“I am around a lot of kids who don’t even have internet access to a computer, let alone a phone,” explained Teitelbaum, “and that becomes difficult for them to do these things online.”

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Some critics raised reasonable questions about how the organization would ensure no one is cheating and that scores produced would be honest.

“It’s not so hard to believe that a student could have multiple computers or monitors in the room especially with kids who are into gaming,” said Mark Sklarow, CEO of Independent Educational Consultants Association in Fairfax, Va. “And who knows, if the students are communicating on a separate device?”

There is also the heightened sense of awareness and concerns surrounding security and online safety.

“I think it’s really up to each one of us to be responsible for our own privacy,” said,  Pete Erickson, CEO of Modev. “Make sure that the services we use have good basic security hygiene like a unique password or a two-factor authentication.” 

In the wake of the pandemic, a lot of colleges have at least temporarily made the ACT and the SAT results optional only, for 2021 applicants. We checked with some of our local colleges such as the University of Maryland, George Mason University and the University of Virginia.

Officials with George Mason told us that the institution has been offering that option since 2007. 

“We don’t want to put any additional undue stress on high school students. Students can apply without test scores and still be considered for scholarships and the Honors College. We will consider all applications with a holistic view.”
Meanwhile, officials with UVA said in a statement:

“Like many schools, UVA requires standardized testing as part of the holistic application review. It is one of many factors the University considers when evaluating candidates for admission. We continue to monitor the situation related to standardized testing but have made no changes to our testing policies at this time.”

UMD did not provide us with a response.

FOX 5 also contacted the New York-based headquarters for the College Board seeking a comment but no one responded to our inquiry as of late Thursday afternoon.