“Congratulations on finishing this test and taking the next step towards your college career. You can expect your scores in a short two to three weeks!”
Those encouraging words ring through the ears of every student following the four-hour-long SAT test. Finishing the assessment after working towards this point is relieving and can fill students’ minds with peace. Although almost every student must take this test, this type of experience is one that can only be experienced at an in-person testing center early in the morning on a Saturday. The SAT has been in-person since its conception, and this experience would greatly change if it were moved online. Although the digital route would make the test more convenient, cheating, the strain electronics have on the mind and the unrealistic dependence on perfect internet service are all unavoidable factors that would make a proposed virtual SAT unsuccessful.
One of the biggest issues in the educational realm is the act of cheating. This includes, amongst other methods, using someone else’s answers on homework, quizzes or tests to gain an advantage over other students. Although this has always been an issue, cheating has become much more prevalent since the pandemic. Online school has given students much more access to the internet and other resources while working. While this can be beneficial, as many students use the internet for research purposes, some people abuse this privilege. According to the International Center for Academic Integrity, nearly 64% of students have admitted to cheating on a test and 58% admit to plagiarism. With these concerning statistics, there is a real possibility that cheating can arise if these standardized tests are moved online. The SAT is a prestigious and important test for high school students, and an even playing field is essential. Without being monitored while working online, students can use outside resources to gain leverage over other students.
Although cheating is an obvious issue when it comes to testing online, there are also many negative mental factors that come into play. Many students look at their phones and computers all day, whether at school or at home. Adding to the hours people spend on technology can be severely damaging to the eyes, brain, neck and head. According to Hackensack Meridian Health, staring at a computer screen for long periods at a time can lead to blurry vision, dry eyes, neck strain and migraines. Online testing can increase these problems and can be an issue during the test. Migraines or severe neck pain during this long and exhausting test can negatively affect an individual’s score and overall performance. The test is already difficult enough, and it would not be fair for an individual to be uncontrollably hindered by too much screen time.
While these factors all affect students and their ability to test fairly, something out of their control that remains an issue is the possible problems with the devices and the internet. Bad service can cause a distraction from the test and induce stress. Taking the focus from this already difficult test can put these students at a disadvantage. Considering this is an important test for college admissions, it is not fair to the students who cannot receive good service on these devices. Having spotty internet or wifi already sets each student apart from others and creates an unequal starting point for test scores and admissions decisions.
While standardized testing online would create a much more convenient and COVID-friendly environment, testing can be just as safe and suitable with pencil and paper. There are many precautions that can be taken into account while testing in order to keep everyone safe. Additionally, this type of standardized testing has always taken place with paper, and keeping it the same would not allow any changes in the environment to be made that could possibly affect a student.
Rather than moving the SAT test online, keeping up with COVID protocols to make for safe and successful testing circumstances can be enforced. Testing with just pencil and paper results in the fairest outcome, and moving it online could damage the equity of the test. Having an environment where students would not be able to cheat, avoid possible eye damage and not worry about the internet is the best option for a testing experience.