The thing about College Board

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The Catalyst / Clair Sapilewski

Students who register for the SAT online can only do so through College Board.

SAT season is upon us, and after taking the PSAT on January 26, many juniors are scrambling to schedule a time to take the infamous test. Unfortunately, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to get an appointment due to the circumstances this year.

Over two million students take the SAT through College Board, a non-profit organization, each year. It seems odd that a test with such a big applicant pool is nearly impossible to get an appointment for, even in a pandemic. In order to open a new testing center, a willing school is needed to host. However, plenty of locations are hesitant to open their doors to test takers because of the liability problems if someone were to test positive for COVID-19 after the test.

Interview with Emma Nilstoft

Because of this, many testing centers get cold feet and decide to cancel the test, sometimes on the morning of the test. This causes students to drive sometimes hundreds of miles and cross state lines to a testing center only to find a sign on the door explaining that the test was canceled.

I feel that because they [the colleges] are test-optional, if I do well on the test, I can give that and it will give me a leg up on other people who did not take it.”

— Emma Nilstoft

Although the pandemic has caused a majority of the testing fiascos, College Board is not guiltless. It costs $50 to take the SAT, $64 if you decide to opt-in for the essay and advanced score reports. This is not an easy sum for some to pay, and it is hard to justify the cost when all that is required for the test is a few papers and a proctor to monitor the operation.

As the only company regulating SAT and AP tests, the College Board has by definition, a monopoly. This seems off, as the words, “monopoly” and “non-profit” do not exactly go hand in hand. Furthermore, the CEO of the college board makes nearly 1 million dollars a year, not something that usually indicates an altruistic non-profit organization. It certainly makes one wonder: would the test be cheaper and easier to take if there were competing organizations?

For the class of 2021, 99% of colleges did not require the SAT, given the extraneous circumstances. Fortunately, most Colleges have already declared that they will not require the class of 2022 to take the SAT to apply. This relieves some of the pressure to take the test, but many students are still planning on taking it.

“I feel that because they [the colleges] are test-optional, if I do well on the test, I can give that and it will give me a leg up on other people who did not take it,” junior Emma Nilstoft explained. “And I won’t have to scramble or take the test in October when I haven’t been prepping.”

The user interface on the College Board’s website is also less than optimal. While trying to get a testing appointment, the website crashed due to a “System error” twice, causing me to repeat the 20-minute process over and over again. When I finally arrived at the “Choose your testing location” page, there was not a single available testing location in the state. I knew this was false, and after calling the College Board, I scored a coveted testing location in Stockton.

Hopefully, with the new COVID-19 vaccines, schools will become less hesitant to open themselves up as testing centers and appointments will stop getting canceled. Standardized testing is rarely regarded as a fun event, but it is often a necessary one. Between schools canceling tests combined with College Board doing nothing, many students will not get to take the infamous SAT.

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