Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:

Your responses to this week’s SAT and ACT updates have focused heavily on questions around at-home testing. We’ve prepared the following FAQs. With information developing daily, we’ll be sure to update these continually:

Why is this option being offered? Is it definitely happening?
Ultimately, the College Board and ACT are responding to the demand for the tests and uncertainty about the ability to offer in-person testing sites in the fall. The test-at-home option ensures students will have an opportunity to test regardless of potential lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, or social distancing restrictions in the fall that may prevent traditional testing setups.

ACT has been pretty definitive that this option WILL be available in late fall/early winter. The College Board has said they will roll out this option for the SAT only if schools do not return in the fall. In both cases, it may be available only regionally in areas where in-person tests cannot be safely administered.

Will there be any changes to test content or construct?
The GMAT, GRE, and SSAT have all stated that the content and construct will be identical to their in-person versions, so it’s likely the SAT and ACT will as well. The only tests that have seen major changes to construct are the AP exams, which eliminated their multiple-choice portions and moved to a shorter, limited number of free-response questions. This seems unlikely for the ACT and SAT as it would be a major departure from existing and validated constructs.

Will they be scored similarly to pencil-and-paper or in-person tests?
Neither the College Board nor ACT has released much detail on scoring for at-home tests. However, both testing agencies have been offering digital tests to schools and districts for some time, and have done studies evaluating the comparability of computer-based and pencil-and-paper tests. Both of them found that students performed better on the computer-based reading sections with minimal differences in the other sections. As a result, they both use a policy of equating: adjusting the scale for the computer-based version of the test to account for these differences. This means students may need to get more questions right on the computer-based version of the test to get the same score as the print version in cases where equating is necessary. It’s possible equating will also be required for the remote proctored version of these tests as well.

Other tests, like the GMAT, GRE, and SSAT (used for graduate or high school admissions) have already gone remote online and have shared more details. The GMAT, for example, uses the same scoring algorithm as the test center-based version. We will update you on any decisions the ACT or College Board announce around scoring.

How will the testing agencies prevent cheating? What will proctoring look like?
One of the major concerns about at-home testing is making it truly fair and ensuring students don’t have the opportunity to get assistance. While the College Board and ACT have not released information about how they will accomplish the goal of a fair and secure tests, some of the tools used may look similar to those on other standardized tests, including:

  • Human proctors monitoring via video camera, which may require occasional 360 degree views of the testing area and use of a mirror or cell phone to display the computer screen
  • Recorded test sessions available for later review
  • Dress requirements, including visible ears to eliminate the possibility of headphones/earbuds or sunglasses
  • Limitations on note taking materials
  • A variety of authentication requirements to prove their identity
  • Downloading secure applications to take the test

ACT has also indicated they are considering options such as allowing students to self-proctor without as many security requirements–but they would have to later take a test to “confirm” the score at a testing center with a proctored test (and presumably score within a similar range).

Without more information available right now, other standardized tests may provide our best information on how online ACT and SAT tests could be made available. We’ll provide more information on the SAT and ACT options as it becomes available.

Be well,
Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO