It’s a no brainer. In the summer students have more time to prepare for the test and they can be better rested before they take it.
I’ve always wondered why the test giants haven’t offered to test at a time when it would be convenient for millions of families. The issue came up recently when the College Board, the maker of the SAT, agreed that teenagers attending a $4,500 test prep camp at Amherst College could take the test in August.
When this news reached the press, all hell broke loose. You can imagine how it looked that the only teenagers who would have access to the test during the summer were a few wealthy students.
Not surprisingly, the College Board eventually yanked the special SAT test date for the rich kids. But the episode prompted me to ask the College Board why the SAT isn’t administered in the summer. It’s six test dates span from October to early June when many students are still in school (and also dealing with their final exams.)
I got a lengthy response back from Kathleen Steinberg, the executive director of communications at the College Board.
College Board’s Response
Here is Steinberg’s explanation for the lack of summer testing:
The current testing calendar is designed, in large part, to accommodate the needs of colleges that use SAT scores in the admission process.
Additionally, since many of our 7,000 test centers are located in high schools and the majority of our test center staff are teachers, counselors and other educators, conducting testing during the school year ensures an optimal availability of both testing facilities and staff to operate them.
And, as research shows SAT performance is linked directly to the type and rigor of coursework test-takers pursue in high school, there also is value in having students take the SAT when they are actively engaged in classroom study.
The SAT was administered in the summer at various times in the past, but this was long before the test was administered to millions of students annually via 7,000 test centers in more than 170 countries. For instance, I have anecdotal information that the SAT was administered in the summer during the early 1970s and have seen “College Entrance Exam Board” registration booklets from the early 1950s showing that the SAT was offered in August, but not in October or November as it is today.
Of course, participation in standardized testing was much different then, as approximately 95,000 SAT exams were administered annually in the early 1950s compared to nearly 3 million during the 2011-2012 school year.
Interest in Summer SATs
Many students and educators have suggested that offering the SAT during the summer would enable students to take the exam at a time when they are (presumably) unencumbered by classroom work, homework, preparation for other exams and non-academic extra-curricular activities. While we are exploring the possibility of a summer SAT administration, we have not made the decision to do so, nor do we have a set timetable for such a decision.
Following are some of the logistical and operational considerations that must be evaluated:
1. Test-center availability.
Many test centers are located in high schools, and high school buildings are often closed during the summer months. Would it be possible to open enough test centers on a summer Saturday (and also on Sunday for students who test with accommodations requiring two-day testing and for students who cannot test on Saturday due to religious observance)?
2. Availability of test-center staff.
We rely on counselors, teachers and other educators to serve as test center staff. Would we be able to adequately staff test centers in the summer?
3. What is the true level of interest in summer testing?
How many students would take advantage of summer testing? Is the interest nationwide or more regional in nature? Would we have enough test-centers and staff to meet the demand? How would a summer administration impact participation in the current test dates? (i.e. do we need to add an eighth national administration or shift the dates of the current seven national administrations?)
4. Availability of fee-waivers.
More than 20 percent of students currently take the SAT for free as part of the SAT fee-waiver program, and fee-waivers are distributed in-school by high school counselors. What steps would we have to take to ensure qualifying students have access to fee-waivers for summer testing?
I think the College Board will discover that there is a huge demand for summer testing. None of the issues that Steinberg raises strikes me as deal breakers. Yes, it would take considerable effort to launch summer test dates, but it would be well worth it.
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of the newly released second edition of The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price.