Taking the SAT: A Remix

A look into some Stuyvesants students’ experiences taking the SAT during COVID-19.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Ivy Jiang

Along with the many unwanted surprises from the year 2020, far too many Stuyvesant students have received the notification from the College Board reading “Important Information About Your SAT.” When opening the e-mail, they are met with the frustrating news that their SAT has been canceled. With over hundreds of SAT testing centers closing all around the world, only a small portion of students were able to take the SAT since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. While the format of the test remained identical to previous years, the same could not be said about the overall experience of taking the exam.

Junior Andrea Khoury was one of the lucky ones who was able to take the exam during the pandemic. Still, she can relate to the despair felt by many others when receiving a cancelation email. “I took my SAT at Saint Joseph’s High School in Trumbull, Connecticut,” Khoury shared. “I had signed up to take it both in Brooklyn and New Jersey [before], but they got canceled due to site closures.” Re-signing up for different test centers on the same date is a common occurrence, especially with recent surges of coronavirus cases in the tri-state area. While students aren’t allowed to take the test in the event of a test center shutdown, according to the College Board, they would receive a refund of the SAT test fee with the option to select another school or take the test on another day.

While many testing centers in NYC have been closed, many remain open in areas with fewer COVID-19 cases. When choosing her testing center, junior Anika Amin took this into consideration and chose a location where there tended to be fewer cancelations. “I looked up the closest available SAT centers to me outside of New York state on [the] College Board [website] and selected the first one that showed up,” she recalled. “I knew from friends that if I chose a school in Manhattan, it would have been canceled.”

Senior Geoffrey Li took a slightly different approach when signing up for his SAT. Li waited until mid-August to sign up for his September 26 SAT in Bellmore, Long Island. “I chose the location because almost every location in NY was full, but I went to the list and manually looked through each school. [I]t turned out that Bellmore was only 30 minutes away, and it had minimal spots left,” Li shared.

Junior Alicia Yu had a vastly different experience from Li. Yu took the SAT at Holy Cross High School located in Flushing, Queens. She shared, “I signed up around three months in advance, and I chose the location because it was simply closest to where I live.”

While the registration process was very different for most students, the test administration was similar. Li, who had taken the SAT before, shared, “It wasn't that much different, besides the fact that they had you wear a mask and checked your temperature as you walked in.”

Amin recounted her experience similarly, saying, “We had to stand in line outside the school, and as we filed in they checked our temperature and did other precautions against corona.”

However, the new safety precautions “didn’t feel like a burden of any sort” according to Khoury, and made most students feel safe while taking the SAT. “I definitely felt safe. Everyone sat so far apart. The necessary precautions were taken. The new rules were totally fair and acceptable,” Khoury said.

Amin shared that view, saying, “I felt pretty safe, and I think [SAT administrators] took all the necessary precautions.”

While both Amin and Khoury’s testing locations took all crucial precautions, the same could not be said about Yu’s testing center. Though Yu’s center at Holy Cross High School is located in New York City, which continues to have a high number of coronavirus cases, it surprisingly had fewer precaution measures than other centers outside New York, such as Khoury’s school in Connecticut. Yu shared, “I definitely feel that [the administrators at Holy Cross High School] should've done temperature checks and required stricter social distancing.” Yu was also concerned about the number of people in the testing room: “They could have had [fewer] students placed in the room because there were quite a lot of people in our room, and the desks weren't spaced out a lot,” she explained.

Ultimately, this testing process is new for all parties involved and both the College Board as well as Stuyvesant students are still trying to figure out new ways to adapt. For some students, that may mean taking on a strategy similar to Li’s—booking a test last-minute—and for others it might, unfortunately, mean opening a test cancelation e-mail. Looking ahead, though, hopefully more Stuyvesant students will have an opportunity to take a test in a safe environment.