GCSEs and A-level exams to be cancelled as UK closed all schools indefinitely. Photo for illustrative purpose only Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: As the coronavirus pandemic continues to cancel school board exams worldwide, students should not turn complacent on SAT university entrance exams, whose May sitting has been cancelled with the June sitting possibly getting shelved too, UAE-based consultants warned on Wednesday.

SAT scores are used by around 2.2 million students globally each year, including thousands in the UAE, when applying to universities in the US.

Peter Davos, founder and CEO of Hale Education, said it would be “an incredible mistake” if students “take the foot of the gas” thinking they should no longer brace for SAT. Davos believes SAT will move online in the footsteps of AP (Advanced Placement) tests, also administered by the College Board.

No certainty

“No one has a crystal ball, but I strongly believe that the College Board will have introduced an online SAT option by June. Internationally, only SAT II subject tests are offered on the June test date, but the College Board has alluded to opening this test date up to SATs in official communication,” Davos said.

“Over 5 million students took AP exams last year alone. This tells me that the College Board has the technology and infrastructure is already in place. If the College Board can do it with APs, they can do it with SATs. Full stop.”

Last week, standardised university entrance tests TOEFL, GRE, GMAT and AP moved online for the first time in history. SATs are next, said Davos.

What’s the impact on students?

He added that the move should not, in general impact students but warned that “some students have seen the [SAT] cancellations as an opportunity to stop worrying about the exam. This is an incredible mistake. Others have gone about their preparation as diligently as usual and have not taken the foot off the gas pedal. These students will benefit disproportionately and their scores will reflect their efforts on upcoming tests”.

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Hale, he added, has offered all students who signed up for their recent SAT course, administered live by Hale instructors online, the opportunity to take unlimited test prep classes at no extra cost, until the SAT takes place, regardless on when that happens.

Concerns over cheating

If SAT, traditionally taken as paper-based tests at school serving as test centres, goes digital, will it make it possible for some students to cheat?

“I have been asked about cheating. Students will be proctored digitally, by a human proctor via video, to make sure they do not cheat on the exams,” Davos said.

Developing situation

“Students cannot become complacent in their preparation for the SAT exams… This is a multi-billion dollar industry that will go digital; these plans have only been accelerated by the impact of COVID-19.”

Soraya Beheshti, managing director of Crimson Education MENA division, said it is “highly likely” SAT in June will be cancelled given that A Level exams, administered by UK exam boards, was also axed for the May-June series.

Shadow of doubt

She does not believe SAT will move online “as the exam board does not currently have these capabilities established and that takes about six to 12 months to set up. Rushing it could bring up concerns about ethics, transparency and security”.

Beheshti said students typically study “in three to six-month bursts” prior to tests “so test-taking uncertainty prolongs the period a student has to be at optimal test-taking ability”.

She added: “Students will typically take the exam more than once and use the first score as a gauge to plan the rest of their preparation journeys around. The delays will therefore lead to uncertainty about how to effectively manage their time.

“It will also cause uncertainty around which schools a student should apply for as SAT scores are a key initial screening criteria. Furthermore, if students were planning to take both the SATs and SAT II exams, they will have a more compact period in which to space these out.”